Moscow: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived in Moscow Wednesday to deliver a message that Russia must choose a peaceful path in Ukraine or face “massive consequences” from Western sanctions.
The first such visit by a UK foreign minister in more than four years, Truss was to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to urge Moscow to abide by its international commitments and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“The UK is determined to stand up for freedom and democracy in Ukraine,” Truss said in a statement as she departed on the two-day trip.
“I’m visiting Moscow to urge Russia to pursue a diplomatic solution and make clear that another Russian invasion of a sovereign state would bring massive consequences for all involved,” she added.
“Russia has a choice here. We strongly encourage them to engage, de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy.”
Russia denies any plans to invade but is demanding that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and a series of other security guarantees against the US-led military alliance’s expansion in the ex-Soviet bloc.
In a statement Wednesday evening, the Russian foreign ministry warned that British officials should change their rhetoric.
“The British side must be clearly aware that without a clear change in the tone of the speeches of representatives of the British leadership, productive interaction is impossible either in solving bilateral problems or in settling international problems,” the ministry said.
“Relations between our countries should be based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, without artificial restrictions hindering business.”
Moscow added that trade and economic ties remained a “stabilizing” factor in bilateral ties.
After a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov said Tuesday that Washington was ready to discuss Moscow’s security concerns.
Britain, long accused of turning a blind eye to flows of illicit money through London from Russia and elsewhere, said last month it was tightening its legislation to impose tougher sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
The sanctions would mean “those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide” if Russia invades Ukraine, Truss said at the time, warning the package would form part of a coordinated US-led response.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv last week in a show of solidarity after Britain said it was also ready to offer NATO a “major” deployment of troops, weapons, warships, and jets in eastern Europe.