- This is the first visit by a British Foreign Secretary in more than four years.
- She says the UK is determined to stand up for freedom and democracy in Ukraine.
- She tells me that I am visiting Moscow to urge Russia to pursue a diplomatic solution.
Moscow: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to deliver the message that Russia must choose a peaceful path in Ukraine, or else Russia must suffer “huge consequences” from Western sanctions.
The first visit by a British Foreign Secretary in more than four years, Truss was due to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to urge Moscow to honor its international obligations and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“The UK is committed to standing up for freedom and democracy in Ukraine,” Truss said in a statement as she set out on the two-day trip.
“I am visiting Moscow to urge Russia to pursue a diplomatic solution and to make it clear that another Russian invasion of a sovereign state would have huge consequences for everyone involved,” she added.
“Russia has a choice here. We strongly encourage them to engage, de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy.”
Russia denies plans to invade but demands Ukraine never join NATO, and a series of other security guarantees against the expansion of the US-led military alliance in the ex-Soviet bloc.
In a statement Wednesday night, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned British officials should change their rhetoric.
“The British side should be clearly aware that without a marked change in the tone of speeches from representatives of the British leadership, productive interaction is impossible, both in solving bilateral problems and in solving international problems,” said the ministry.
“Relations between our countries must be based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, without artificial restrictions that hinder business.”
Moscow added that trade and economic ties remained a “stabilizing” factor in bilateral ties.
After a phone call 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 illicit money flows 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 have nowhere to hide” if Russia invades Ukraine, Truss said at the time, warning the package would be part of a coordinated US-led response.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kiev last week in solidarity, after Britain said it was also willing to offer NATO a “large” deployment of troops, weapons, warships and fighter jets in Eastern Europe.