U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Tuesday that he would not meet as planned with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, after Moscow formally recognized two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and deployed troops to the region.
“Now that we see that the invasion has begun and Russia has clearly rejected diplomacy, it makes no sense to meet at this stage,” Blinken told reporters during a joint news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba.
“We will not allow Russia to claim alleged diplomacy while at the same time accelerating its march on the path of conflict and war,” the U.S. secretary of state added.
However, he said he was ready to continue diplomatic efforts “if Russia is willing to take verifiable steps to prove to the international community that it is serious about scaling up and finding a diplomatic solution.
“If Moscow changes its attitude, I am fully prepared to talk,” he added, but insisted that Russia “has to prove itself serious. The last 24 hours have shown just the opposite.”
Blinken stressed that the financial sanctions previously announced by President Joe Biden will not be the last if Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to carry out his threats against Ukraine.
“Any further escalation by Russia will be met with new rapid and severe measures, coordinated with our allies, in addition to those announced today,” he warned.
Dmitro Kuleba welcomed the “wave” approach to international sanctions. “It’s something that can work if it continues in a sustainable way,” he told reporters.
“Vladimir Putin should never believe that the pressure has reached the ceiling and that he cannot continue to be punished,” he added. “The pressure must continue to rise. And if that means regular announcements of new sanctions, we will be pleased.”