Blinken tells Ukraine he will continue to work to avoid a Russian attack

  • Blinken says Russia could attack Ukraine in the short term
  • Kremlin says arms deliveries to Ukraine increase tension
  • Russian minister says there is no strike or invasion plan
  • Blinken will meet Russian Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

KYIV, Jan 19 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Russia could launch another attack on Ukraine “at very short notice”, but that Washington would continue diplomacy as long as it could, even if he did not know what Moscow would do. really wanted.

During a visit to Kyiv to show his support for Ukraine, the top US diplomat said Ukrainians should be prepared for difficult days. He said Washington would continue to provide defense aid to Ukraine and renewed a promise of tough sanctions against Russia in the event of another invasion.

The Kremlin said tension around Ukraine was growing and it was still awaiting a written response from the United States to its sweeping demands for security guarantees from the West.

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The pessimistic statements highlighted the rift between Washington and Moscow as Blinken prepares for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, which a Russian foreign policy analyst called “probably the last step before the sinking of the train“.

Blinken promised “relentless diplomatic efforts to prevent further aggression and promote dialogue and peace.” He said a Russian rally of tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders was happening without “provocation, for no reason”.

“We know that there are plans in place to increase this force even further at very short notice, and that gives President (Vladimir) Putin the ability, also at very short notice, to take further aggressive action against the Ukraine,” he said.

He did not specify how quickly Russia could act. Independent security analysts say they do not believe Moscow has so far assembled the logistical and medical units it would need to launch an immediate attack.

Russia has also sent troops to Belarus for what it calls joint military exercises, giving it the ability to attack neighboring Ukraine from the north, east and south. Read more

He continues to deny any such intention. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western arms supplies to Ukraine, military maneuvers and NATO plane flights were behind rising tensions around the ‘Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he did not believe in the risk of a full-scale war. He reiterated that Moscow has no intention of attacking, hitting or invading Ukraine.

His comments prompted a rally in Russian and Ukrainian government bonds, hammered in recent weeks by escalating tensions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of trying to sow panic in Ukraine. He said diplomacy offered the only way out and it was an “indestructible principle” that no decision regarding Ukraine could be made without his involvement.

“The basic principle is simple: a strong Ukraine is the best instrument to contain Russia,” he said.

“HOPES ARE DIM”

The United States says Russia could be ready for another invasion of Ukraine, eight years after taking Crimea and backing separatist forces that have taken control of large parts of eastern Ukraine.

Russia says it feels threatened by Kiev’s growing ties with the West. He wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for the alliance to withdraw its troops and weapons from Eastern Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kiev, Ukraine January 19, 2022. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

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“It’s unclear what Russia’s central demand is or isn’t. They’ve put a number of things on the table,” Blinken said.

“Some of them are clearly absolute non-starters like closing the door of NATO to new members,” he said, adding that Washington remained ready to discuss anything that would improve “the safety of each on a reciprocal basis”.

This could include arms control, risk reduction, as well as the scale and scope of military exercises, he said.

Blinken said he would not submit a written response to Russia’s proposals to Lavrov in Geneva on Friday – something Moscow has repeatedly demanded.

Both sides are due to take stock of a series of crisis talks last week, he said. After Friday, Blinken added, the diplomatic possibilities might become clearer.

But Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat who is now a foreign policy analyst, said Moscow would not be appeased by the US-NATO offer of arms control talks and was looking for a much-needed rearrangement. most radical part of the European security order.

“The Lavrov-Blinken meeting is probably the last step before sinking. But hopes are low, positions are incompatible,” Frolov said.

Describing Russia’s military deployment in Belarus as a “huge escalation”, Frolov gave a dire assessment of the crisis.

“I think barring a US surrender and handover of Ukraine to Russia, some sort of military option is almost inevitable now.”

DEFENSE ASSISTANCE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Blinken to Kyiv for stepping up military assistance, which included Javelin anti-tank missiles, after President Joe Biden’s administration last month approved an additional $200 million.

Britain says it has started supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons. Read more

Blinken said additional assistance was planned in the coming weeks and would be further increased in the event of Russian aggression.

Ryabkov called on the West to stop supplying arms to Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.

Blinken will meet in Berlin on Thursday with the German foreign minister and the Quad group which also includes Britain and France.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that the European Union – which has not been involved in negotiations with Russia so far – must draw up proposals for a new security agreement in the coming weeks which it will then draw up with Moscow. Read more

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Additional reporting by Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow, Benoit van Overstraeten, Myriam Rivet and Tangi Salaün in Paris, Susan Heavey and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Written by Mark Trevelyan, edited by Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones

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