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UNITED NATIONS: Russia and the United States faced off Monday at the UN Security Council over Moscow’s troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, as Western nations intensified their high-stakes diplomatic push to avert open conflict in Europe.

With tensions soaring, the United States has declared itself ready to push back against any “disinformation” Moscow puts forward in one of the most closely watched United Nations sessions in years.

The US-requested meeting, which began around 1530 GMT, came with fears growing of an imminent incursion into Ukraine, despite Kremlin denials.

Russia tried to block the 15-member Council from holding the meeting at all — with its envoy to the UN Vasily Nebenzya accusing the United States of trying to “whip up hysteria” by pushing a Security Council debate.

But Washington’s UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Moscow’s troop buildup justified the move, and Russia’s blocking move was rejected with 10 out of 15 members backing Washington.

“This is the largest... mobilization of troops in Europe in decades,” the ambassador said. “And as we speak, Russia is sending even more forces and arms to join them.”

She told the Council Russia’s military buildup had been paired with “aggressive rhetoric” as part of an escalation often seen from Russia when it seized Crimea in 2014.

And she accused Russia of planning to build its military force in Belarus to 30,000 within weeks as a part of its threat to Ukraine.

In parallel with the UN meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was preparing for fresh talks Tuesday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov — the latest of a flurry of diplomatic contacts between Moscow, Washington and Brussels over Ukraine, and broader European security concerns.

The United States and its allies have ramped up joint efforts to deter any invasion of Ukraine, with Washington and London on Sunday warning such a move would be punished with new and “devastating” economic sanctions.

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a tough stance, saying it was crucial Washington send a powerful message to President Vladimir Putin that any aggression would come at a very high cost.

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