MOSCOW — Britain's top diplomat has urged Russia to take the path of diplomacy even as thousands of Russian troops engaged in sweeping maneuvers in Belarus as part of a military buildup near Ukraine.
The buildup of about 100,000 Russian troops has fueled Western fears that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Russia on Thursday that attacking its neighbor would "have massive consequences and carry severe costs."
She urged Russia to abide by its international agreements that commit it to respecting Ukraine's independence and sovereignty.
Across the table from Truss, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov set a stern tone for the talks, emphasizing that Moscow will not accept Western lecturing.
Russia has denied that it's planning to invade Ukraine. and has laid out a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe. Those demands include a promise that NATO will not extend an invitation to Ukraine and guaranteeing that the alliance will remove troops from Eastern Europe.
But the U.S. and the Western alliance have firmly rejected any concessions on Moscow's suggestions. Many of Russia's demands are nonstarters for NATO, creating a stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
Last week, the Pentagon announced it was sending 3,000 U.S. troops toward Eastern Europe. About 2,000 of those military members will be deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland and Germany. Another 1,000 troops based in Germany will be sent to Romania.
"The current situation demands that we reinforce Eastern flank," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said last Wednesday.
In the past, Putin has expressed frustration with the Soviet breakup of some countries, like Belarus and Ukraine. According to an Associated Press analysis, Putin sees those countries as part of a historic Russian linguistic and Orthodox motherland.