Liz Truss to visit Moscow ‘in next two weeks’, Russian foreign minister says

Liz Truss has “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks, Russia’s foreign minister has said.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit would be the first to the country since 2017, when Boris Johnson met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and comes amid high tensions with Moscow over the threat to Ukraine.

The Times reported earlier this month that Ms Truss was planning the trip.

Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Now, according to Russian news agency Tass, Mr Lavrov said Ms Truss will visit in the next fortnight.

“We have already agreed on the date,” he is reported to have said.

“It’ll happen in the next two weeks.”

Ms Truss has been forthright in speaking out against Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and took the unusual step of declassifying intelligence which suggested President Vladimir Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Kyiv.

She told the Commons earlier this month that Russia has “no justification whatsoever” for its aggression towards Ukraine.

Earlier, Mr Putin was urged to “de-escalate” the military build-up on the border of Ukraine as the international community steps up retaliation threats in the event of an invasion.

Government minister Chris Philp said Moscow should “get to the table” to resolve the tension peacefully as he warned of “very serious” sanctions should Russian troops make an incursion into neighbouring territory.

It came after US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy there is a “distinct possibility” that Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

One of the threats Washington has put on the table is to halt the opening of a key gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, between Russia and western Europe if the Kremlin’s forces advance.

Mr Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said there is “deep concern” about the “unprecedented” build-up of Russian troops on the border, particularly after units from the east of Russia redeployed to the region.

“I think it is a very serious situation,” he told Sky News.

“I think President Biden and our Prime Minister are right to warn President Putin that the consequences if they do invade Ukraine will be very, very serious indeed for Russia in terms of sanctions.

Chris Philp
Minister Chris Philp in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

“The Americans made clear yesterday that the Nord Stream 2 pipe would not happen if they invade.”

The technology minister said the UK has provided military equipment and training to support the Ukrainians, but pressed for Russia to engage diplomatically and avoid the need for combat.

“We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation,” Mr Philp added.

“De-escalation is clearly in the interests of all concerned – it is not too late to de-escalate, and that is what now needs to happen.”

This week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted he is “not optimistic” that a Russian mobilisation into Ukraine can be stopped.

The Cabinet minister confirmed on Thursday that he is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, in Moscow soon to discuss the stand-off.

Mr Johnson has used public statements this week to issue a stark warning that a military clash would be a “painful, violent and bloody business” as he called a possible invasion a “disastrous step”.