The new U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will travel to Minsk where he will meet with a representative of the Russian government to "discuss Russian-Ukrainian relations" on August 21.
Volker then will travel to Vilnius, Lithuania, to meet with senior government officials to discuss "the way forward in Ukraine," the State Department said on August 18.
The U.S. statement did not identify the Russian representative but earlier this month Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russian state TV that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told him that Volker will meet with Vladislav Surkov, the Russian envoy for the Ukraine crisis, “in the nearest future.”
On August 23, Volker will also travel to Kyiv, where he will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in meetings with senior Ukrainian government officials to discuss "the next steps in diplomatic negotiations to restore Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the department said.
Mattis's talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak will likely center on the country's standoff with Russia, whose 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in the east of the country have led to U.S. and EU sanctions targeting Moscow.
Russia denies backing the separatists despite substantial evidence of such support.
Volker told Current Time TV last month that the Trump administration is considering sending Kyiv weapons to help government forces defend themselves against the Russia-backed separatists.
Volker told the Russian-language network, which is run by RFE/RL in cooperation with Voice of America, that he did not think arming Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons would "provoke Russia to do more than they are already doing."
U.S. media reported on August 6 that the Pentagon had recommended sending a package of lethal defensive military aid to Ukraine worth about $50 million.
The weapons package would reportedly include Javelin antitank missiles, which Kyiv has long sought to defend against Russian-made armored vehicles operating in rebel-held areas.
Based on reporting by TASS, AP, and Reuters