Biden administration did not sanction secret talks with Russians

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s administration did not sanction or support secret meetings that former top US national security officials held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russians on potential talks to end the Ukraine war, the White House and State Department said on Thursday.

NBC News reported that the former US officials met Lavrov in New York in April, joined by Richard Haass, a former US diplomat and outgoing president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and two former White House aides.

It was not clear how frequently the group, which included former Pentagon officials, held discussions with other prominent Russians thought to be close to the Kremlin, NBC News reported. At least one unidentified group member traveled to Russia, it said.

A State Department spokesperson said the administration would continue providing weaponry to Kyiv so Ukrainian officials “can negotiate from a position of strength when they think the time is right.”

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said in an interview with CBS News that the White House was aware of the unofficial discussions.

“But I want to make it clear that these discussions were not encouraged or engendered by us and we were not supporting them in any active way,” he continued. “As the president has said, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

NBC News, quoting six people briefed on the discussions, said they were aimed at laying the groundwork for possible talks on ending the war that erupted with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

It quoted two sources as saying that the discussions took place with the administration’s knowledge but not at its direction and that those who met Lavrov briefed the White House afterwards.


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