Blinken to meet with Russian, Ukrainian counterparts amid tensions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planned to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as tensions between Moscow and Kiev continue to rise.

Blinken announced the news during a press conference after a meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers in Latvia on Wednesday, adding that the meeting is going to be held on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe summit in Sweden on Thursday.

He also told the reporters that the US is not sure whether Russia is determined to invade Ukraine, however, warned that such measure would trigger 'serious consequences.'

“Russia has stepped up planning for potential military action in Ukraine, including positioning tens of thousands of additional combat forces near the Ukrainian border,” Blinken claimed.

“We don’t know whether President [Vladimir] Putin has made the decision to invade,” he continued. “We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so on short order should he so decide.”

Meanwhile, the US top diplomat reiterated that Washington would responds “resolutely” to any effort to destabilize Ukraine.

“We are prepared to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he added.

The comments by Blinken come a day after Putin warned that Russia will act if the US-led NATO military alliance crosses its red lines in Ukraine.

Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow on Tuesday, Putin said the expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine was a red line he hoped would not be crossed.

The Russian president has repeatedly noted he is seeking serious talks with Washington and its allies in order to obtain guarantees that NATO will not expand further East. He has also accused the West of breaking its promises regarding its military presence in the region.

Ukraine has denied the accusation, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for talks with his Russian counterpart to resolve the crisis in the east of his country. But the Kremlin says the conflict is a domestic Ukrainian issue, and has nothing to do with Russia. The conflict has killed over 13,000 people since 2014.


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