Truss calls on Russia to halt ‘malign activity’ against Ukraine

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Russia not to attack Ukraine (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Russia not to attack Ukraine (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has issued a fresh call to Russia to end its “malign activity” towards Ukraine as Nato warned Moscow it would pay a “heavy price” if it attacked its neighbour.

The alliance’s general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said the “risk of conflict is real” if Russia does not de-escalate and end its aggressive actions.

Nato foreign ministers held virtual talks on Friday to discuss the Russian military build-up, with tens of thousands of troops massing near the border, ahead of what has been described as an “absolutely critical” week for peace and security in Europe.

US and Russian officials are due to sit down for talks in Geneva on Sunday in an attempt to defuse the crisis before it escalates into a full-blown military conflict.

It will be followed on Wednesday by the first meeting in two years of the Nato-Russia council to be held in Brussels.

Mr Stoltenberg said that while Russia’s willingness to come to the negotiating table was a “positive signal” they had to be prepared for the possibility the talks would fail.

“The risk of conflict is real. Russia’s aggressive actions seriously undermine the security order in Europe. It is a positive signal that Russia is prepared to come to the table and talk,” he said.

“Nato will engage in dialogue with Russia in good faith and on substance but we must also be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail.

“So today ministers stressed any further aggression against Ukraine would have significant consequences and carry a heavy price for Russia.”

Mr Stoltenberg also made clear that Nato rejected a call by President Vladimir Putin to halt plans to admit any new members – not just Ukraine – saying it was a “fundamental right” of countries to decide which alliances they join.

“This has been a fundamental principle of European security for decades and Russia has committed to uphold it,” he said.

In her intervention in the talks, Ms Truss said that Russia needed to abide by its international commitments.

“There is no justification for its aggressive and unprovoked stance towards Ukraine,” she said, according to a Foreign Office readout of the meeting.

“We stand with our Nato allies in urging Russia to end its malign activity and adhere to international agreements it freely signed up to,” she said.

“We will defend democracy in eastern Europe and around the world. Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We are clear that any Russian incursion would be a massive strategic mistake, for which there would be a severe cost.

“The Russian government needs to de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels and abide by its commitments on the transparency of military activities.”

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