Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia Wednesday of trying to sow division between the US and its European allies and urged Western nations to remain united against Moscow’s “relentless aggression.”
Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev to provide assurances that the US and its allies are committed to supporting Ukraine and its democratic ambitions, even after Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed more than 100,000 troops along its neighbor’s border.
“The Ukrainian people chose a democratic and European path in 1991. They took to the Maidan to defend that choice in 2013, and unfortunately ever since you have faced relentless aggression from Moscow,” said Blinken, referring to pro-democracy protests in Kiev’s main square that led Kremlin-linked former President Victor Yanukovych to flee the country in early 2014.
“Our strength depends on preserving our unity and that includes unity within Ukraine,” the secretary to Zelensky. “I think one of Moscow’s long-standing goals has been to try to sow divisions between and within our countries and quite simply, we cannot and will not let them do that.”
Speaking to the staff at the US Embassy in Ukraine, Blinken said the buildup of Russia forces had “no provocation, no reason.”
“We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine,” America’s top diplomat said. “And that, of course, has gotten not only our attention but it’s gotten the attention of virtually all of our allies and partners, and not just in Europe, even beyond.”
The Biden administration confirmed on Wednesday that it was providing an additional $200 million in defensive military aid to Ukraine to support its “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a White House official said.
Zelensky thanked Blinken for the military aid and for his visit to Kiev.
“This support not only speaks to our strategic plans of Ukraine joining the [NATO] alliance, but more importantly to the level of our military, our military supplies,” he said.
“If we want dramatically fast steps in modernizing the military, we need help, especially in these tough times,” Zelensky added before telling Blinken: “Your visit is very important. It underlines once again your powerful support of our independence and sovereignty.”
Along with the massive troop buildup, Putin has demanded that the US and its allies guarantee that Ukraine and other former Soviet states will not be able to join NATO.
Talks over those issues last week failed to reach an agreement.
After visiting Zelensky, Blinken will travel to Germany to meet with his British, French and German counterparts Thursday before heading to Geneva on Friday for discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Blinken spoke to Lavrov on the phone Tuesday and emphasized the “importance of continuing a path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military build-up in and near Ukraine,” the State Department’s readout of the call said.
The secretary of state also “reiterated the unshakable US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored that any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine.”
Russia’s foreign ministry said Lavrov reiterated the need for Washington to respond in writing to Putin’s security demands.
With Post wires