Russian minister accepts invitation to meet Defense Secretary Ben Wallace

The Russian Defense Minister has accepted an invitation to meet British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace amid tensions over Ukraine, according to the PA news agency.

Mr Wallace invited his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to visit London to discuss mutual security earlier this week.

Shoigu instead offered to meet in Moscow, given that the latest bilateral defense talks between the countries were held in London.

A senior defense source said: “The Secretary of Defense is pleased that Russia has accepted the invitation to speak with his counterpart.

“As the last defense bilateral between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu offered to meet in Moscow instead.

“The Secretary of State has been clear that he will explore all avenues to achieve stability and a resolution to the Ukrainian crisis. We are in communication with the Russian government.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin via AP)

It comes after Downing Street warned that Russia would be “punished” if the country pursued “destabilizing action” in Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Russian diplomats in Switzerland on Friday in a bid to avert a conflict on the Ukrainian border, where Moscow has amassed around 100,000 troops.

Number 10 said if Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an offensive there would be a “radical package” launched by the UK and its allies against the Kremlin.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Mr Putin that he had to ‘stand back and step back’ from the war in Ukraine or risk being drawn into a protracted conflict like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, she said: “If there is a Russian incursion into Ukraine, it would have a huge cost.

“We are ready to put in place very tough sanctions, we are also working to support Ukraine in terms of defensive capability.”

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “I think the Prime Minister has been clear that any destabilizing action by Russia in Ukraine would be a strategic mistake and would have significant consequences.

“I spoke about the fact that we are working closely with our partners, including the United States, to develop a set of radical measures to ensure that the Russian government is punished if it crosses the line.”

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