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As US and Russia prepare to talk, Blinken presents hard line

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Russian and US officials issued a pessimistic note after three rounds of talks last week, with a Russian diplomat saying talks with the West were approaching a ‘stalemate’, and Mr Blinken gave few reasons to be optimistic.

Mr Blinken said the United States made no formal offer last week, but merely “talked about areas” of mutual cooperation, including arms control and the conduct of military exercises in Europe.

He said it was unclear whether Russia was ready to negotiate in good faith on those fronts, or not at all.

Russia has positioned around 100,000 troops along its western border with Ukraine, although precise estimates vary. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Russia “could launch an attack in Ukraine at any time.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, President Biden echoed that message, saying he expected Mr Putin to invade. “Do I think he’s going to test the West, test the United States and NATO, as much as he can? Yes, I think he will,” Mr Biden told reporters, adding: “But I think he will pay a serious and expensive price for it which he thinks will not cost him now what it will. cost. And I think he’ll regret doing it.

Speaking at a forum in Moscow earlier on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov repeated his government’s previous denial that Moscow intended to move its forces to Ukraine.

“We will not attack, strike, invade, quote without quotes, anything, Ukraine,” Ryabkov said. He said Russian troops near the Ukrainian border were carrying out training exercises.