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Russian Envoy Floats Notion of UN Meeting For Blinken and Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is prepared to meet his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken during an upcoming visit to New York, Moscow’s permanent representative to the world body said on April 4.

Quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency, Vasily Nebenzya said the meeting would depend on “where Secretary Blinken will be at that time and his ability and willingness to meet our foreign minister.”

If the proposal garners a positive response, Lavrov—who will be in New York on April 24—“will be ready to meet Secretary Blinken,” Nebenzya said.

Early last month, Blinken and Lavrov met briefly on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in New Delhi.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attend the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting during the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh on Aug. 5, 2022. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

It was the first meeting between the two top diplomats since Russia invaded Ukraine more than one year ago—but it failed to yield any breakthroughs.

In a statement released afterward, the U.S. State Department said it had no short-term plans to engage in top-level discussions with Moscow. 

When asked about the Russian proposal for a meeting in New York, a State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times: “We don’t have any plans for Secretary Blinken to meet with FM Lavrov in New York right now.” 

Bakhmut Still Undecided: Kyiv

The proposal for a diplomatic summit follows Russian claims of victory in the hard-fought city of Bakhmut, a key Ukrainian transport hub in the eastern Donetsk region.  

The scene of fierce fighting for months, the fall of Bakhmut would likely disrupt Ukrainian supply lines and pave the way for a Russian advance to the northwest.

On April 2, Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed Wagner fighters had captured the city’s administrative headquarters. Prigozhin leads the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked paramilitary force that is spearheading Russian operations in Donetsk.

But officials in Kyiv have contested the claim, saying central Bakhmut is still the scene of heavy ground fighting.

Protesters wave Georgia's national flag, also known as the Five Cross Flag, as they take part in a rally against Russia in Tbilisi on July 18, 2015. Over 3,000 people took to the streets in Georgia on Saturday to protest what they called Moscow's occupation of the breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. (Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters wave Georgia’s national flag, also known as the Five Cross Flag, as they take part in a rally against Russia in Tbilisi on July 18, 2015. (Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images)

“Bakhmut is Ukrainian,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern military command, said on April 3. “They [Russian forces] have not captured anything, and they’re very far from doing so.”

The Epoch Times was unable to verify battlefield assessments made by either side.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian army’s general staff has conceded that Bakhmut is the current “epicenter of operations.”

It has also been confirmed that fighting remains ongoing in Avdiivka and Maryinka south of Bakhmut.

Recent days have seen little sign of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has been expected for weeks, in either Donetsk or the southern Zaporizhzhiya region.

Last September, Russia claimed to have annexed both regions, along with two others. According to Moscow, the move was meant to protect local Russian speakers from abuses by the pro-West Kyiv government.   

Kyiv and its Western allies reject the claims, saying Russia’s invasion—and subsequent annexations—amounts to an illegal war of aggression.

West Wants ‘2nd Front,’ Spy Claims

In the geopolitical arena, meanwhile, the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service has alleged that Western powers were seeking to push Tbilisi into opening a “second front” against Russia.

On April 4, Sergey Naryshkin claimed there were “persistent attempts” by Washington, Brussels, and London to “persuade the Georgian leadership to open a so-called second front.”

“They [Western powers] see the situation on the battlefield is not in Ukraine’s favor,” he said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Quoted by TASS, Naryshkin claimed that Western powers were encouraging Tbilisi to try to reassert control over the disputed Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

In 2008, Russia fought—and won—a brief war with Georgia over the two regions in the South Caucasus. Tbilisi, and much of the West, views both regions as part of Georgia; Moscow recognizes them as independent republics. 

Last month, thousands took to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against legislation they claimed was inspired by Russia and threatened Georgia-EU relations. 

After three days of protests, Georgia’s parliament withdrew the bill, which had sought to limit foreign interference in local civil society. 

At the time, Lavrov suggested the protests were being orchestrated from abroad, comparing them to Ukraine’s 2014 “Maidan Revolution.”

Moscow contends that the 2014 uprising in Kyiv, which swept Ukraine’s pro-Russian president from power, was a Washington-backed “coup” against a democratically elected leader.

In televised comments, Lavrov had claimed the proposed legislation was being used as a pretext to “attempt regime change.”

A State Department spokesperson described the claims—by both Naryshkin and Lavrov—as a “now-common narrative of disinformation.”

“This rhetoric distracts Georgia’s citizens from their goal of Euro-Atlantic integration,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times. “As we’ve said before, it is absolutely untrue.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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