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UK foreign minister heads to Russia

MOSCOW (AFP) – British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss headed to Moscow yesterday 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 United Kingdom (UK) foreign minister in more than four years, Truss was to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov 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.”

Soldiers stand next to military vehicles at an airfield. PHOTO: AP

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 United States (US)-led military alliance’s expansion in the ex-Soviet bloc.

After a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov said on 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.