Washington [US], February 18 (ANI): Amid Russian build-up in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday left for Germany to participate in the Munich Security Conference 2022.

"En route to Germany for #MSC2022. I'll also meet with @NATO Allies and partners on our coordinated, ongoing efforts to urge Russia to deescalate and choose diplomacy, as well as our readiness to impose severe costs should Russia further invade Ukraine," Blinken tweeted.

Also Read | Russia-Ukraine Crisis: India at UNSC Emphasises Quiet, Constructive Diplomacy, Backs Minsk Agreements.

MSC is an annual conference on international security policy that takes place in Munich, Germany since 1963. This year the conference will take place from February 18-20.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris is also travelling to Germany to hold a whirlwind series of talks with European leaders to bolster unity as concern grows about Russian troops at Ukraine's border.

Also Read | Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Threat of Russian Invasion ‘Very High’, Says US President Joe Biden.

Harris plans to meet with about 13 heads of state over the course of the weekend in Munich, and also will give an address to an annual conference of the world's top national security officials.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III also arrived in Poland on Thursday amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

"US has a deep appreciation for our Alliance and our shared values, and I'm especially thankful for their gracious hosting of US forces," he tweeted.

Russia on Thursday started shelling of Stanytsia Luhanska in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in Donbas.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US is "deeply concerned" that Russia has chosen the path of confrontation with Ukraine, instead of de-escalation.

President Joe Biden said he believes an invasion of Ukraine could happen "within the next several days," with the US secretary of state warning the UN that Russia is planning to manufacture a justification for an attack and has not withdrawn troops, despite Moscow's claims.

Meanwhile, US-Russia diplomatic tensions continue. Russia expelled the second-most senior US diplomat in Moscow, a State Department official said, calling it an "escalatory" move.

Russia has expelled the US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman from Moscow, the State Department confirmed on Thursday.

The move was announced shortly after the US said it had received a response to Washington's response about security proposals and guarantees demanded by Russia.

The expulsion comes during a months-long standoff over a Russian buildup of more than 150,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. (ANI)

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