US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Russia to cease "reckless and aggressive actions" against Ukraine, ratcheting up rhetoric against the former Cold War adversary.
During a visit to Kyiv on Thursday intended to show support for Ukraine,Blinken also said President Joe Biden was keen to visit Ukraine and meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Russia last month deployed 100,000 troops near the border and in Crimea, its biggest buildup since 2014, but quickly announced a withdrawal of its forces after a standoff with Ukraine.
Blinken said that the pullout had been limited, claiming that Russia had left behind a number oftroops and equipment.
"We are aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from theborder of Ukraine, but we also see that significant forcesremain there, significant equipment remains there," Blinkensaid, speaking alongside Zelenskiy.
"We are monitoring the situation very, very closely," hesaid. "And I can tell you, Mr President, that we stand stronglywith you, partners do as well. I heard the same thing when I wasat NATO a couple of weeks ago and we look to Russia to ceasereckless and aggressive actions."
Washington is "actively looking at strengthening evenfurther our security cooperation and our security assistance",he said, without giving details.
Zelenskiy said Russia had pulled out only about 3,500 of one hundred thousand troops deployed to the Crimea peninsulawhich it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
"There may be a threat. Nobody wants these surprises," hesaid.
Zelensky welcomed American support but said that Ukraine "desperately" needed more.
"We think that the decrease (of Russian troops near the border) is slow, therefore, perhaps, there still may be a threat. Nobody wants these surprises," Zelensky said.
Blinken’sone-day visit — the first by a senior US official under President Biden — came after Ukraine last month accused Russia of amassing 100,000 troops on their shared border and claimed that ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine were systematically violating a ceasefire.
Biden has formerly promised “unwavering support” for Kiev “in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
The Kremlin said at the time that the Russian troop and military hardware movements near the border with Ukraine were aimed at ensuring Moscow’s own security and posed no threat to anyone.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that the deployments were in response to the increased activity of NATO and individual countries near Russian borders.
Blinken’s visit to Kiev comes even as the Biden administration is seeking to resolve tensions with Moscow ahead of a potential summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Blinken arrived late Thursday from the British capital, London, where he joined foreign ministers from the Group of Seven in condemning Russia’s “irresponsible and destabilizing behavior” in Ukraine.
Kiev and Moscow have traded blame in recent months for a spike in violence in the Russian-speaking Donbass, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces have been fighting since 2014.
The armed conflict began when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected, pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration. The majority of the people in eastern Ukraine, mostly ethnic Russians, refused to endorse the new administration.
The new government then began a crackdown on the ethnic Russians in the east, who in turn took up arms and turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow denies the allegations.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev further deteriorated when the then-Ukrainian territory of Crimea voted to fall under Russian sovereignty in a referendum in 2014. More than 90 percent of the participants in the referendum voted in favor of unification.