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 ahead of talks between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday that a Russian foreign policy analyst called “probably the last stop before the train sank.” “.

Blinken said he would not submit a written response to Russia’s proposals to Lavrov in Geneva, but pledged “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 in a very short time, and that gives President (Vladimir) Putin the ability, also in a very short time, 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.

Eight years ago he seized Crimea and backed separatist forces that took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine, but he has always denied any intention to invade now.

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 and reiterated that Moscow had no intention of attacking, hitting or invade 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; President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the government was doing everything to resolve the situation through diplomacy and citizens should remain calm.

“Keep a cool head, keep faith in your strength, in your army and in our Ukraine,” he said.

“HOPES ARE DIM”

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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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.

“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.

Washington remained ready to discuss anything that would improve “each other’s security on a reciprocal basis”, he said, including arms control, risk reduction, and the scale and scope of military exercises. After Friday, he 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 seeking much redevelopment. 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.”

THREAT OF SANCTIONS

In the United States, Republican senators said they were working with Democrats to develop a joint proposal for possible sanctions against Russia to prevent another attack on Ukraine.

Separately, the White House has told the U.S. chip industry to prepare for further restrictions on exports to Russia if Moscow attacks Ukraine, sources said, including potentially blocking the country’s access to global electronic supplies.

Zelenskiy thanked Blinken in 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.

Blinken said more assistance was expected in the coming weeks, and would be further increased if Russia invaded.

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.

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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, Gareth Jones and Philippa Fletcher

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