Russian foreign minister clashes with ‘deaf’ Truss as Ukraine talks stall in Moscow
Russia’s foreign minister claimed speaking to British foreign secretary Liz Truss is like “the deaf talking to the blind” as talks over the Ukraine crisis stalled in Moscow.
Sergei Lavrov said he was “disappointed” with the lack of progress in the negotiations as Ms Truss urged Russia to de-escalate amid growing fears it could invade Ukraine.
Ms Truss’ trip to Moscow was the first such visit by a foreign secretary in more than four years. It came as the UK government seeks a “path of diplomacy” to help defuse tensions on the Ukrainian border.
But Mr Lavrov’s insulting remarks are a sign that diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis appear to be proving fruitless.
The latest estimates suggest Moscow has 130,000 troops massed in the border region and in neighbouring Belarus, close to the strength some analysts believe would be needed to mount a full-scale invasion.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Mr Lavrov claimed the UK continued to be dismissive of Russia’s security concerns.
“I’m rather disappointed that it was a bit like talking to a deaf person,” he said. “It’s like they’re listening to us but not hearing.”
Mr Lavrov claimed that UK-Russia relations had plunged to their lowest point “in many years”, saying Ms Truss was “following the West’s playbook”. He denied suggestions that Russia would invade Ukraine.
But Ms Truss responded: “I can’t see any other reason for 100,000 troops stationed on the Ukrainian border apart from threatening Ukraine, and if Russia is serious about diplomacy, they need to move those troops and desist from the threats.
"Fundamentally a war in Ukraine will be disastrous for the Russian and Ukrainian people for European security."
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, praised Ms Truss for standing up to her Russian counterpart tweeting: “While we’re trying to bring peace and stability, Russia is playing games. Good to see â¦@trusslizâ© standing up to Lavrov.”
The talks came as Boris Johnson warned that Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to “bully” eastern Europe.
The prime minister said further military support could be offered to Ukraine if Russia invades as he carried out engagements at Nato headquarters in Brussels and alongside his Polish counterpart in Warsaw.
But Mr Johnson made clear that Britain could not intervene militarily if Ukraine was attacked.
Meanwhile, 350 Royal Marines from 45 Commando are to begin deploying to Poland as part of a further strengthening of UK support to the country announced earlier this week.
In December the UK sent 100 Royal Engineers to the country after Moscow’s ally, Belarus, engineered a refugee crisis on the border.