By Humeyra Pamuk and Anna Ringstrom
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Russian chancellor on Thursday to personally alert him to the “serious consequences” that Russia would suffer if it invaded Ukraine and to urge that he seeks a diplomatic way out of the crisis.
Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a meeting in Stockholm a day after declaring that the United States is ready to react resolutely in the event of a Russian attack, including tough sanctions.
“The best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy, and that’s what I hope to discuss with Sergei,” Blinken told reporters ahead of the conversation with Lavrov.
He said both Russia and Ukraine must fulfill their obligations under the 2014 Minsk peace process, designed to end the war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the east of the former Soviet Republic.
The US is willing to facilitate this, Blinken said, but “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there would be serious consequences.”
Lavrov told reporters that his country is ready to talk to Ukraine. “We, as President (Vladimir) Putin says, do not want any conflicts,” he said.
Ukraine is a major sticking point between Russia and the West, whose relations are at their worst in the three decades since the end of the Cold War. Ukraine says Russia has assembled more than 90,000 troops near its long common border.
The Russians accuse the Ukrainian government of seeking its own military reinforcement. Russia dismisses Ukrainian insinuations that it is preparing an attack as inflammatory, says it threatens no one and defends its right to mobilize soldiers as it sees fit.
(Additional reporting by Niklas Polland and Johan Ahlander)
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