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UK steps up diplomacy with Russia, foreign ministers meeting ‘in coming days’

LONDON — The U.K. is ramping up diplomatic efforts to prevent a Russian incursion into Ukraine with a call between Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin and a series of ministerial trips to Eastern Europe.

The British prime minister will “reiterate the need for Russia to step back and engage diplomatically” when he speaks to the Russian president “this week,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said. Johnson is also expected to travel to Eastern Europe in the coming days.

“The prime minister is determined to accelerate diplomatic efforts and ramp up deterrence to avoid bloodshed in Europe,” the spokeswoman said.

Diplomatic efforts to prevent a war in Ukraine have so far failed to calm tensions, with Putin using a call with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier Friday to accuse the U.S. and NATO of ignoring Russia’s “fundamental concerns” over NATO’s growth in Eastern Europe. Media reports suggest Russia has transferred blood supplies and other medical materials to its border with Ukraine.

The U.K.’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are expected to travel to Moscow in the coming days, but it remains unclear whether the two ministers will travel together.

The initial plan was for Wallace to go alone, but the Russian government has agreed to welcome Truss too. She is expected to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov within the next two weeks, the Russian embassy in London announced.

Next week, Wallace will travel to Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia to “share U.K. intelligence and strengthen NATO resolve,” a British official said, while Truss will visit Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Downing Street said Johnson will this weekend consider a range of options to deter Russia from further aggression in Eastern Europe, including more deployments of troops and resources to the region.

Britain will also announce a toughening of its sanctions regime in parliament on Monday, allowing the U.K. to target Russia’s strategic and financial interests.

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