People fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Slovakia, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Ubla, Slovakia, February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

 – Russia’s offer for talks with Ukraine is an attempt to conduct diplomacy “at the barrel of a gun,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday, saying Russia must stop its bombing in Ukraine if it is serious about diplomacy.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Friday that Russia was ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital Minsk for talks. Read full story

Russia had attempted to engage in “a pretense of diplomacy” even as it prepared to invade Ukraine this week, Price told reporters at a news briefing.

“Now we see Moscow suggesting that diplomacy take place at the barrel of a gun, or as Moscow’s rockets, mortars, artillery target the Ukrainian people,” he said. “This is not real diplomacy. Those are not the conditions for real diplomacy.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had attempted to talk to Putin “but his outstretched hand at every turn was met now by silence, and now bombs,” Price said.

Washington has not seen any indication Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to de-escalate in order for diplomacy to work.

Responding to reports that the U.S. government had ordered officials to stop most contacts with Russia, Price said the invasion of Ukraine had “fundamentally changed” Moscow’s relationship with Washington and other nations.

But U.S. officials would continue to engage with their Russian counterparts on important national security issues, including the talks to return to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, he said.

“These are areas that are of overriding importance to us…but the point is that Moscow is now a pariah on the world stage, President Putin is a pariah on the world stage,” Price said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

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