Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, has foreseen a war with Russia in the event that Russia attempts to take over Kharkiv’s industrial center. He believes Kharkiv is an ideal target because of its large Russian-speaking population.

In an attempt to avoid war with Ukraine, US Secretary Antony Blinken stated that there were no breakthroughs in crunch talks between his former Cold War foe. 

Kharkiv is an eastern Ukrainian city that is second in size to the ex-Soviet republic. It has a population around 1.4 million people. Zelenskiy considers it a feasible target for Putin.

He told the Washington Post: ‘I will say realistically if Russia decides to enhance their escalation, of course they are going to do this on those territories where historically there are people who used to have family links to Russia.

The possibility of an occupation could arise from ‘Kharkiv being under Ukraine government control. Russia will need a pretext to claim that it is protecting its Russian-speaking citizens.  

Next week will see meetings between Russia and the USA. Russia warned the US that the US must decide between the “path of diplomacy” and the “path of conflict, condemnation”, as there is increasing threat of an invasion with its 100,000 soldiers stationed at the Ukraine border. 

Blinken promised to respond in writing to Russian security requests. He isn’t ruling out the possibility of a presidential meeting. However, he seemed to deny Moscow’s request that Ukraine be excluded from NATO membership at today’s Geneva 90-minute conversation with Sergei Lavrov.

He stated that Europe and the USA were’ready to face Russia on both paths’ of war, and that it was up to Vladimir Putin now to demonstrate that he did not intend to invade Ukraine. 

Blinken described today’s high-stakes talks as ‘frank’ and not ‘polemical’, with Lavrov also voicing hope for a lowering of the temperature between the former Cold War foes, despite saying NATO is ‘working against’ Russia and stirring up ‘hysteria’. 

According to the Secretary of State, “We did not expect major breakthroughs today.” However, I think we now have a clear pathway in understanding one another’s perspectives and concerns.

He said, “We expect that we can share with Russia your concerns and ideas in greater detail in writing next week. We agreed to continue discussions afterwards.”

Lavrov stated that Anthony Blinken had agreed to a rational dialogue. He also said, “I hope the emotions will reduce.” We are not on the right track, so I can’t say for certain. When we receive an answer, we will be able to tell.

He suggested that another meeting might be organized between them, but said it was too early to talk about another summit between Putin and Joe Biden, who last June met in Geneva.

Blinken however did not exclude the possibility of new talks between presidents. This was after Biden telephoned Putin twice warning him about possible consequences in case of invasion from Ukraine.

Blinken explained that if the Russians agree that a new conversation is the best way to solve the problem, they will be able to conclude the matter.  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken today met Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks in Geneva as the men try to avert a war in Ukraine after Putin massed troops on the border

Today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Sergei Lavrov in Geneva to discuss a possible war against Ukraine. This is after Putin has massed his troops at the border.

Blinken told Lavrov that the US remains committed to diplomacy but is ready with a 'severe' response should Moscow invade

Blinken informed Lavrov that while the US is committed to diplomacy, it’s ready for a severe response in case of invasion by Moscow.

Mr Blinken speaks at a press conference held after the talks, saying Russia must now choose between 'path of diplomacy' or 'path of conflict' - and that the US 'stands ready to meet them on either path'

At a post-talk press conference, Mr Blinken stated that Russia now has to choose between the ‘paths of diplomacy and conflict’. The US is’ready to meet them on any path’.

Mr Lavrov speaks at a press conference after the talks, saying that America has agreed to respond to Moscow's security demands in writing and that more talks are planned after that

Following the talks, Lavrov addressed a press conference. He stated that America agreed to send a written response to Moscow’s security requirements and that there are more negotiations afterward.

Lavrov (right) opened the talks by demanding 'concrete' responses to Moscow's security demands, including that Ukraine is banned from joining NATO (Blinken pictured left)

Lavrov (right), opened the discussions by demanding concrete responses to Moscow’s security demands. This included that Ukraine should be barred from NATO membership. (Blinken, pictured left).

Ukrainian troops are pictured manning their posts in a trench close to frontlines where they have been fighting a years-long war with Russian separatists

Pictured are Ukrainian soldiers manning posts close to the frontlines, where they’ve been engaged in an almost two-decade-long conflict with Russian separatists.

Russia is blamed by Ukraine for its bomb hoax campaign

Ukraine claims it was targeted in a recent campaign of false bomb threats. Russia is to blame.

Kiev claimed that the Kremlin had been calling in false bomb alerts “targeting society” in order to create panic and chaos.

“The apparent goal of the special service of aggressor countries is to exert additional pressure upon Ukraine to create panic and alarm in the society,” said Kiev’s security personnel. 

The US had warned Russia against launching sabotage operations against rebels it backs in the East of the country to justify an invasion.

Putin is currently stationed at the border of Ukraine with 100,000 soldiers. The Russian leader has requested security guarantees from America, such as that Ukraine be expelled from NATO.

Although the US called many of these demands “non-starters”, it has agreed to continue negotiations with the US in hopes of avoiding conflict. 

Blinken said earlier today: ‘If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be by de-escalating, by removing those forces on Ukraine’s border.’

He seemed to be rejecting at least one Moscow’s demands, that Ukraine not join NATO. By insisting there was no room for negotiation over Ukraine’s rights to determine its future, he said that there wasn’t enough space to do so.  

He said that Washington would respond in writing to Russia next week and that further talks will be held once Moscow has reviewed its response.  

Lavrov also denied Russia’s intention to attack Ukraine at an independent press conference. Instead, NATO was accused of creating ‘hysteria aimed at’sabotaging the peace process. 

According to him, the Kremlin was concerned by NATO’s eastward expansion. He claimed that NATO is working against Russia. He said that Moscow has concerns about the recent deployment of military specialists and weapons into Ukraine, as well as plans by the EU to establish a training facility there.  

Lavrov, however, described the talks as productive, saying it’s too early for them to determine if they’re on the right course. This will be confirmed after America sends its response next week. 

The US warned that a united, rapid, and severe response would be taken if Putin attacked Ukraine ahead of the negotiations. This was in spite of fears about Putin’s intention to invade the country.

Arriving at the Geneva hotel, where the crunch talks took place, Blinken stated that Washington was ‘committed’ to diplomacy in order to resolve border tensions between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbor.

But he added that America stands ready with a ‘united, swift and severe’ response if Moscow invades. He said, “This is an important moment.” 

Lavrov stated that Moscow expects a concrete response to security concerns, such as that Ukraine is banned from NATO membership. 

Moscow wants to see the “withdrawal” of all foreign troops, equipment, and arms from those countries which were not NATO members prior 1997. This includes Bulgaria and Romania. 

Lavrov stated that “(Our) propositions are very concrete, and we expect equally concrete answers,”

Russian sappers are pictured taking part in mine-clearing exercises in the Voronezh region, which is close to the border with Ukraine

Russian sappers are pictured taking part in mine-clearing exercises in the Voronezh region, which is close to the border with Ukraine

Following the conference, Mr. Blinken spoke out, saying that while he did not expect major breakthroughs today, “I believe we now have a clear pathway to understand each other and our positions.”

According to him, the conversations lasted 90 minutes and were ‘frank’ and’substantive’. He also stated that the conversation wasn’t polarizing in any way. He said, “This conversation was not about negotiation but an honest exchange of thoughts and concerns.”

In addition to the issues raised during the discussions, Mr Blinken also addressed the case of two US citizens – Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed – who are detained in Russia on charges of spying and endangering the lives of police, asking that they be freed. 

Lavrov said that the Kremlin is not involved in criminal cases. 

Blinken, a NATO member, was visiting Berlin on Tuesday to gather support and pressure Russia. Germany has, until now, taken a more relaxed line.

German foreign minister Annalena Baurbock said that after the talks, her country was willing to suffer economic harm in order to retaliate for Russian aggression – possibly referring the Nord Stream 2 gaspipe that Moscow is trying to open.

Today, however, in Germany it was discovered that Olaf Scholz (whose SPD party is historically close to Russia) refused to meet with Joe Biden in the last minute to discuss the current situation in Eastern Europe.

Der Spiegel reported that Scholz declined the invitation because of a busy schedule including a trip in Madrid. 

A report today said that the US was considering whether it would pull diplomats from their families – a sign of concern that war is on the horizon. 

Blinken’s insistence on a ‘severe’ response came a day after Biden drew widespread criticism for saying retaliation would depend on the details  – and that a ‘minor incursion’ could prompt discord among Western allies.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden warned that Russian troop movements over Ukraine’s border could be considered invasion and Moscow would pay “a heavy price” for this action. 

Russia sappers take part in drills to practice mine-clearing in Voronezh, close to Ukraine

Russia sappers take part in drills to practice mine-clearing in Voronezh, close to Ukraine

A Russian rocket artillery vehicle takes part in live-fire drills in the Voronezh region

A Russian rocket artillery vehicle takes part in live-fire drills in the Voronezh region

Rockets explode during live-fire drills in the Voronezh region, near the border with Ukraine

Rockets explode during live-fire drills in the Voronezh region, near the border with Ukraine

Moscow has for weeks been massing tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces along its eastern flank, sparking fears of an invasion, though the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defence force (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions)

Moscow has been massing hundreds of thousands of troops and tanks along its eastern flank over the past weeks, sparking fear of an invasion. But, while it has claimed that this is only a defence force, (pictured, Russian forces currently being grouped in border regions).

“I have been completely clear with President Putin,” Mr Biden stated. “He doesn’t misunderstand: If any Russian unit is assembled and moves across the Ukrainian border it’s an invasion.”

When asked if Russia had been intimidated by Ukraine during the negotiations, Sergei Ryabkov, the Deputy Foreign Minister, responded that he was not afraid of any person, not even the U.S.

Moscow: The Kremlin responded coolly to the parliament’s initiative to recognize eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatist regions as independent states. They stated it was vital to prevent any steps that might increase tensions.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for the Kremlin, said that it is important to not try to score political points in such fragile circumstances. 

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, and Scholz had a telephone conversation on Thursday night. They released a statement this morning warning Russia that it would have to pay a “considerable and severe price” if Ukraine invades.

According to the German chancellery, both leaders agreed that Russia must not further attack Ukraine with military force.

While rejecting all core Russian demands and expressing its disapproval, the Biden administration stated that it would be open to discussing security issues with Moscow.

The United States proposes to reimpose restrictions on European missiles that were established by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This Cold War agreement was discarded by Trump’s administration after it claimed Moscow had violated the agreements. 

Biden has offered transparency in relation to military exercises. Russia is not refusing the propositions, however it has stated that Ukraine remains its primary concern. 

Today, Liz Truss from the UK, Foreign Secretary, warned Putin in Australia, as part of talks regarding AUKUS’ new submarine pact.

She stated that an invasion would only result in a terrible quagmire, loss of life and a famine, just as the Soviet-Afghan wars and conflicts in Chechnya have shown.

We need all to get involved. We will stand by Russia and encourage it to engage in constructive discussions. This is what we are doing together with allies. It is important that the world sees what’s happening in eastern Europe.  

Moscow claims it does not intend to invade, but it also made a number of demands in return for de-escalation. These included a ban on Ukraine becoming NATO members and a list of other requirements.

Washington dismissed Moscow’s demands, describing them as “non-starters”. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said this week that NATO would not compromise its core principles. He also stated that each country has the right to determine their own paths. 

Russia increased the intensity of its naval drills. Russia will deploy new naval units to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

After the Kremlin’s angry condemnation of the ‘destabilizing’ comments made by US President Joe Biden after the American leader promised a severe response to any invading of Ukraine, the Kremlin announced the same.

Russia and ex-Soviet republic Belarus held joint military drills Wednesday. They also border Ukraine.

According to a US official, the exercises may signal a permanent Russian military presence in Belarus. This could include both nuclear and conventional forces.

Russia was repeatedly warned by Russia that it would have to pay “high prices” for its economic and political sanctions in the event of an invasion.

Biden caused controversy hours before Blinken reached Berlin to coordinate any response to Russia. He appeared to suggest that an ‘incident minor’ could prompt a less aggressive reaction by NATO allies. 

A Ukrainian soldier sits inside a trench along the frontline where government forces have been fighting against Russian-backed rebels for years

An unidentified Ukrainian soldier is seen in a trench at the frontline, where Russian-backed rebels have been fighting for many years.

Ukrainian troops move through a trench network close to the frontlines with Russian-backed rebel forces in the east of the country

Ukrainian soldiers pass through a trench network that is close to frontlines with rebels from Russia in the eastern part of Ukraine

Russian S-400 anti-aircraft batteries are moved to the frontlines with Ukraine as Putin continues to mass his troops

Putin is continuing to mass troops by moving his S-400 Russian anti-aircraft guns to the frontlines of Ukraine.

S-400 anti-aircraft batteries are loaded on to transports to be taken to the frontlines

S-400 antiaircraft batteries have been packed on transports and taken to frontlines

He said, “It’s fine if it is a minor intrusion. But then, we get into a fight over what to do or not do.

Blinken from Berlin clarified his comments and said that any Russian military forces that move over the Ukrainian border will commit new aggression against Ukraine. The United States, our allies and partner countries would respond quickly and severely to such an act. 

According to German translations, Blinken stated that Russian soldiers crossing the Ukrainian border would be considered an act of aggression.

Biden attempted to calm nerves and said that Russia’s entry in Ukraine would be seen as an invasion.

But, smarting from Biden’s Wednesday comment, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilensky responded that there were no’minor incursions’.

We want to remind all the major powers that minor invasions can be prevented and there is no need for small nations. Zelensky tweeted that there were no minor casualties or little grief after the death of loved ones.

The West’s diplomatic apparatus has been working at its full potential over the last weeks in order to ease tensions. But with both sides firmly entrenched, negotiations between Western and Russian officials have not resulted in any significant breakthrough.

NATO allies indicated their willingness to talk, but Moscow requested a written reply on its proposed security guarantees.

Russian officials desire to restrict military activities in ex-Warsaw Pact states and ex Soviet countries who joined NATO following the Cold War.

However, Wednesday’s Kyiv meeting saw Blinken state that he will not give a formal answer to Lavrov at Geneva’s Friday talks. Russia was to be dispelled of fears regarding expansionist plans.

The Russian-backed Ukrainian forces have been fighting in the two separatist eastern regions of Ukraine since 2014. This was after Russia annexed Crimea.

There have been more than 13,000 deaths, while the recent Russian troop increase has caused a lot of concern among neighbours in Baltics.

Washington announced Thursday that it approved the Baltic nations’ requests to transport US-made arms to Ukraine.

Britain also stated it was sending defensive weapons to Ukraine to assist with its security.

Prepared remarks indicate that Liz Truss from Britain will make a speech Friday in Sydney warning Vladimir Putin to avoid making strategic mistakes and getting caught in a terrible mess’ if Russia invades Ukraine.