First UK Foreign Secretary visit to Russia in four years as Truss heads out

Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign secretary is flying out to Moscow to meet her Russian counterpart to urge a diplomatic end to the huge build-up of troops along the Ukrainian border. It is the first visit by a UK foreign secretary to the country in more than four years.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain earlier accused Russia of “behaving like a racketeer”, but told Sky News he believed the threat of war is lower than it was a few weeks ago. Russia is still denying any intention to invade Ukraine despite the escalation in military exercises in the area.
Intense diplomatic efforts have been underway to try to avoid any conflict, with Emmanuel Macron, the French leader, the latest to enter the fray when he met President Putin on Monday 7 January.
He said Mr Putin had pledged not to escalate the situation but the Kremlin later said the suggestion they would not undertake new manoeuvres near the border was “not right”.
During her two-day visit, Ms Truss will stress to Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, that diplomacy is the only solution and that agreements ensuring Ukraine’s independence must be respected.
Ms Truss said: “The UK is determined to stand up for freedom and democracy in Ukraine. 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.
“Russia should be in no doubt about the strength of our response. We have said many times that any further invasion would incur severe costs, including through a coordinated package of sanctions.
“Russia has a choice here. We strongly encourage them to engage, de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy”, said the UK foreign secretary.
It comes after six Russian warships set off yesterday for the Black Sea – to Ukraine’s south – for planned military drills in the latest example of a concentration of forces around the former Soviet state.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK told Sky News’s Kay Burley on Wednesday that it was a “dangerous development” and that some of the vessels were assault ships.
“They’re coming, they’re massing the forces, they’re behaving like a racketeer – coming with a problem and offering to resolve it for some price… We will fight, we’re not going down without a fight,” Vadym Prystaiko added.

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Written by

Claire Gordon