Blinken arrives in Ukraine to show solidarity as fears of Russian invasion grow

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday to show support as fears of a Russian invasion grow, according to an AFP correspondent who traveled with him.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Kiev on Wednesday for crisis talks with Ukrainian leaders, as diplomatic efforts to deter Russia from attacking its pro-Western neighbor falter.

After last week’s talks failed to allay fears, the White House warned on Tuesday that Russia was ready to attack Ukraine at any time.

It was a marked intensification of its threat assessment ahead of a meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which is expected in Geneva on Friday.

Hoping to show strong support for the talks, the top US diplomat makes a one-day visit to Kiev to show support for Ukraine.

He was met by Ukrainian officials on an icy, moonlit asphalt and will later meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Blinken is going to Berlin on Thursday for four-way talks with Great Britain, France and Germany to seek Western unity.

“We are now at a stage where Russia can launch an attack on Ukraine at any time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

“No alternative is off the table,” she said, warning of an “extremely dangerous situation”.

And she said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has created this crisis”.

Moscow has repeatedly denied that an invasion was planned.

“Diplomatic exit” In a conversation between top US and Russian diplomats ahead of Blinken’s trip, Russia’s foreign ministry said Lavrov had urged Blinken “not to repeat speculation about the alleged impending” Russian aggression “.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “emphasized the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to reduce tensions”.

And a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Blinken’s goal was to see “if there is a diplomatic exit” and “common ground” where Russia can be persuaded to withdraw from Ukraine.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops gathering at Ukraine’s borders, efforts have intensified to prevent tensions from escalating into a new European war.

At a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday, Lavrov said there would be no further negotiations until the West reacts to its demands for comprehensive security guarantees.

They include a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO.

Washington has rejected the claims.

While the United States and its European allies have no plans to face a Russian attack on Ukraine by military force, the economic countermeasures would be different from those used in the past, Washington said.

The US official said that it was possible that Russia was not interested in a diplomatic solution.

“I think it is still too early to say whether the Russian government is genuinely interested in diplomacy, whether it is prepared to negotiate seriously in good faith, or whether it will use discussions as an excuse to claim that diplomacy did not address Moscow’s interests. ” said the official.

At the same time, Washington warned that draft constitutional reforms in Belarus could lead to the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in the country.

Joint military exercises between Russia and Belarus announced by Minsk on Tuesday when Russian troops arrived in the country were “beyond normal”, a US official said, and could herald a permanent Russian military presence involving both conventional and nuclear forces.

Kiev has been fighting a pro-Moscow uprising in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far left more than 13,000 dead.

(AFP)

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