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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden's top diplomat will seek to defuse a crisis with Moscow over Ukraine when he meets the Russian foreign minister in Geneva this week following visits with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv and European officials in Berlin.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel amid concerns voiced by Ukraine and its Western allies over the tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed in and near Ukraine.
"The United States does not want conflict. We want peace," a senior U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.
"(Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin has it in his power to take steps to de-escalate this crisis so the United States and Russia can pursue a relationship that is not based on hostility or crisis," the official told reporters.
Russia denies planning a new military offensive.
Blinken will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday.
Then in Berlin he will meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and later the Transatlantic Quad, referring to a format that involves the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
Blinken will "discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including Allies' and partners' readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia," the State Department said in a statement.
Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday to seek a diplomatic off-ramp with Moscow, the senior official said.
Blinken spoke with Lavrov on Tuesday and urged de-escalation, the State Department said in a separate statement. The senior official said the two decided in the call that it would be useful to meet in person.
Despite diplomatic engagements this month the U.S. has yet to see Russia de-escalate tensions and Moscow could launch an attack on Ukraine at any time in January or February, the senior official said.
"We've been very clear, meaningful progress on the diplomatic track can only happen in an environment of de-escalation. But we've seen the exact opposite from Russia," the official said.
"We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine."
Lavrov separately said Moscow would welcome U.S. diplomatic efforts and reiterated Russian accusations that Ukraine was "sabotaging" agreements aimed at ending the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Biden has warned of severe economic consequences for Moscow if Russia invades its neighbor. Russia, which invaded Ukraine in 2014, has denied any plans for a fresh attack but has made several demands and said it could take unspecified military action unless the West agrees to them.
Germany's Baerbock, in Moscow for talks with her counterpart, on Tuesday said her country was ready to pay a high economic price to defend its fundamental values in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Kyiv has sought weapons from Western nations to shore up its defense. On Monday, Britain said it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to help it defend itself.
Contributing: Daphne Psaledakis