Britain has joined the US in urging Russia to draw back from conflict with Ukraine as the Kremlin warned the risk of armed hostilities “remains high”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met separately with their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the margins of international talks in Stockholm.
In a blunt message, Mr Blinken warned there would be “serious consequences” if Moscow were to pursue confrontation with its neighbour.
“The best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy,” he said.
Ms Truss re-iterated Britain’s support for Ukrainian territorial integrity and urged the Russian government to “de-escalate the situation.”
The meetings took place amid heightened tensions in the region with the Ukrainian government voicing increasing concerns about a build-up of Russian troops on the border.
However in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said it was the Ukrainians’ “aggressive and increasingly intensive provocative action” which risked sparking a conflict.
“The probability of hostilities in Ukraine still remains high,” he said.
Russia and Ukraine have been at odds since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 following the ousting of the country’s pro-Moscow president.
More than 14,000 people died in fighting in eastern-Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatist rebels.
Mr Blinken said the US had “deep concerns” about Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine.
“If Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences,” he said.
Following Ms Truss’s meeting with Mr Lavrov, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary expressed concern about rising tensions across Europe, and re-stated the UK’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, urging the Russian government to de-escalate the situation.”
The talks took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the Swedish capital.