Ukraine: Blinken in Kyiv urges Russia to take peaceful path

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Russia to take a “diplomatic and peaceful path” as fears mount of a new invasion of Ukraine.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed near Ukraine’s borders and Mr Blinken, visiting Kyiv, said Russian planes were in plans to beef them up at short notice.

Russia has repeatedly denied planning to invade neighbouring Ukraine.

But senior US officials say Moscow could attack at “any point”.

Mr Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Friday, after talks with European allies in Berlin.

Ahead of his visit to Kyiv, senior state department officials indicated that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may be offered the option of a “diplomatic off-ramp” in Geneva. The White House said no option was off the table.

Russia has made a raft of demands to Western governments, including that Ukraine should never join Nato and that the defensive alliance’s military activities should be limited in member states including Poland. Talks between the West and Russia last week failed to reach a breakthrough, with some of Moscow’s demands rejected as non-starters.

“I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but ultimately, that’s going to be President Putin’s decision,” Mr Blinken told reporters in Kyiv.

Although Russia says it has no plans for an invasion, tensions remain high near Ukraine’s borders – with Russian troops deployed in neighbouring Belarus for what have been termed joint military exercises.

A handout photo made available by the Belarus Defence Ministry press service shows Russian servicemen prepare their military vehicles to unload for Russia and Belarus joint military drill "Union resolve 2022" in Belarus, 18 January 2022
Belarus’s defence ministry released photos showing Russian troops and tanks arriving for drills

Mr Lavrov also rejected the US claims that Russia was preparing a pretext for a military operation in Ukraine as “total disinformation.”

Mr Blinken’s visit to Kyiv on Wednesday was described as a bid to “reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, before talks in Berlin on Thursday with German, French and British counterparts.

The German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who visited Moscow on Tuesday, has warned that any further military escalation “would carry a high price for the Russian regime – economic, political and strategic”.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has urged Western governments to impose immediate sanctions on Moscow.

Speaking to the BBC’s HardTalk programme, he warned that a Russian invasion of the country could lead to bloodshed and a refugee crisis for Europe.

Consignment of British light anti-tank missiles arrives in Kyiv
As British military equipment arrived in Ukraine, UK ministers said it was right all diplomatic avenues should be exhausted

A consignment of light anti-tank missiles arrived in Kyiv from the UK on Tuesday as British ministers urged Moscow to reflect on the brink of potential conflict in which thousands could die.

In an essay published this week, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace accused Russia of using Nato as a “strawman” to justify an invasion of Ukraine, accusing President Vladimir Putin of being motivated by “ethnonationalism”.

SourceBBC

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