Antony Blinken Says Thursday Meeting With Russian Foreign Minister Now Off

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday, alongside Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, that his planned upcoming meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been postponed because of recent actions by Russia that indicate the beginnings of an invasion into Ukraine.

The meeting was scheduled for Thursday, and was contingent on Russia not invading Ukraine. "Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy," Blinken said, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting.

Earlier Tuesday, several former Ukrainian officials told Newsweek that Vladimir Putin does not need a large-scale invasion to reach his goal of a destabilized Ukraine that is not part of Western security alliances like NATO. President Joe Biden also announced new sanctions against Russia Tuesday, including financial sanctions on Russia's VEB bank, military bank and sovereign debt. He added the sanctions could escalate if Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

"That means we've cut off Russia's government from Western financing," Biden explained. "It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either."

Blinken said he sent Lavrov a letter Tuesday to inform the diplomat of the called off meeting, planned to take place in Geneva on Thursday. He also said that European allies were consulted and they agreed with the move, as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also announced the cancellation of his Friday meeting with Lavrov, CNN reported.

The move comes a day after Putin officially recognized two separatist regions of Ukraine as "independent," a move that many U.S. officials feared could be used by Russia to exaggerate claims of violence by Ukraine toward the people living in the regions to justify Russian military force, bringing the situation between Russia and Ukraine closer to a larger war.

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday granted authorization to Putin to deploy the nation's military outside of Russia, approving a deployment of troops to eastern Ukraine requested by Putin in a letter to the upper house of the nation's legislature, referred to by Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko as "peacekeeping forces."

Biden's comments Tuesday also marked the first time he has identified Putin's classification of the regions as "independent" and subsequent request for troop deployments as an invasion, which he was criticized for not doing Monday.

Also Tuesday, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans to evacuate its diplomats from several Ukrainian cities, citing alleged threats of violence against the officials.

Update 2/22/22 6:05 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

Antony Blinken Russia Ukraine Sergey Lavrov Meeting
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that due to recent actions by Russia that indicate the beginnings of an invasion into Ukraine, his upcoming meeting for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been postponed. Above, Blinken delivers remarks about priorities for administration of President Joe Biden in the Ben Franklin room at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images