WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he had cancelled a planned meeting with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov later this week, as Russia had started an invasion of Ukraine.

"Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time," Blinken said.

Blinken and Lavrov were to hold talks in Geneva on Thursday, after setting up the meeting last week in hopes of heading off Russia's threatened invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken said however that the invasion had already begun, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had already declared his aim for "the total subjugation of Ukraine."

Russia's Lavrov says to meet with Blinken Thursday

Blinken, in a joint press conference with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the State Department, said Washington would "always pursue" any possibility of preventing an all-out assault on Ukraine.

"If Moscow's approach changes. We remain, I remain, very much prepared to engage," he said.

"But Moscow needs to demonstrate that it's serious. The last 24 hours has demonstrated just the opposite," he said, referring to Moscow's statements that it would send troops into Ukraine breakaway regions Donetsk and Luhansk.

Blinken said, "if Russia continues to escalate, so will we," referring to sanctions on Russian individuals and financial institutions announced by President Joe Biden.

Kuleba welcomed the sanctions. "Condemnations are important. But it's actions that really matter now these days," he said.

The US strategy of imposing sanctions by waves, rather than all at once, "is something that can work if it continues in a very sustained way," he added.


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