U.S. sees no evidence Russia is interested in ending Ukraine aggression – Blinken

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WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The United States will consider every means to advance diplomacy with Russia if it sees an opening, but at the moment Moscow shows no sign of willingness to engage in meaningful talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.

“Every indication is that far from being willing to engage in meaningful diplomacy, President Putin continues to push in the opposite direction,” Blinken said at a press conference with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna.

“We consider and will consider every means to advance diplomacy if we see an opening to advance it by whatever means, of course we’ll always look at it,” he said, but added that Moscow was instead “doubling and tripling down” on its aggression.

Russia has intensified its missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power and water infrastructure this week in what Ukraine and the West call a campaign to intimidate civilians ahead of the cold winter.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke on Friday with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, their first call since May, and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the war in Ukraine, according to a statement from the Pentagon.

In televised remarks to his Security Council, Putin boosted the powers of Russia’s regional governors and ordered the creation of a coordinating council under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to support his “special military operation”.

Russian conscripts attend a military training at a ground training range in the Rostov-on-Don region in southern Russia. EPA-EFE/ARKADY BUDNITSKY

In Other Developments:

* Ukrainian President Zelenskiy urged the West to warn Russia not to blow up a dam that would flood a large area of southern Ukraine, as his forces prepared to push Moscow’s troops from the occupied city of Kherson.

FIGHTING

* Russia has accused Ukraine of rocketing the Nova Kakhovka dam and planning to destroy it in what Ukrainian officials called a sign that Moscow might blow it up and blame Kyiv. Neither side produced evidence to back up their allegations.

* To Ukrainian soldiers entrenched north of Kherson, a drop-off in Russian shellfire and armour movements signals that their foes dug into a nearby tree line are suffering serious manpower, supply and hardware woes.

* Russian air attacks have hit at least half of Ukraine’s thermal generation capacity, causing billions of dollars of damage since Oct. 10, though not all those power units have stopped working completely, Ukraine’s energy minister said.

* The minister said he saw no signs of progress towards a deal involving Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations nuclear watchdog on resolving the situation at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s biggest nuclear power station.

* Ukraine is taking down 85% of Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones fired by Russia but needs its allies’ support to prevent Tehran selling Moscow ballistic missiles, an air force spokesperson said.

DIPLOMACY

* Britain, France and Germany on Friday called for a United Nations probe of accusations Russia has used Iranian-origin drones to attack Ukraine, in what they said was a violation of a U.N. Security Council Resolution.

* The Pentagon declined to offer specifics beyond saying that Austin, who initiated the conversation, emphasized a need for lines of communication amid the war in Ukraine.

* The United States will consider every means to advance diplomacy with Russia if it sees an opening, but at the moment Moscow shows no sign of willingness to engage in meaningful talks, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said.

* Zelenskiy accused Russia of deliberately delaying the passage of ships carrying grain exports under a U.N. brokered-deal, and said 150 vessels were waiting to be loaded.

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