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CIA chief secretly visited Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia: Report

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)
Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency William Burns

Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Burns paid a secret visit to Kiev last week, discussing the escalation of tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

Citing two sources familiar with the trip, CNN reported on Tuesday that Burns met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital last Wednesday.

Burns “had the opportunity to discuss the current situation with President Zelensky and efforts to de-escalate tensions,” a US official said. The CIA chief also “consulted with intelligence counterparts amid concerns of a further invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”

The visit comes amid heightened tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border, with the US, Ukraine, and several other Western countries accusing Russia of planning “an invasion” of Ukraine. Russia rejects the allegations and says deployments near the Ukrainian border are defensive in nature.

Burns’ visit to Ukraine was followed by the visit of a delegation of US senators to the country, which happened on Monday.

Blinken to visit Kiev

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also preparing to fly to Kiev on Wednesday. The State Department announced that Blinken would meet with Zelensky to “reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

He will head to the German capital, Berlin, on Thursday for four-way talks with Britain, France, and Germany on the Ukraine crisis, said the department’s spokesman Ned Price.

No talks on Ukraine until West responds to demands: Russia

Russia held a series of diplomatic meetings with US and its NATO allies last week in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna over the Ukraine crisis.

During the talks, the Russian representatives reiterated Moscow’s demand for security guarantees — including a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO — to be taken seriously.

The talks, however, failed to ease tensions between Russia and the West.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that there would be no further negotiations until the West gives proper answers.

“We are now awaiting responses to these proposals — as we were promised — in order to continue negotiations,” Lavrov said at a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “Let’s hope these talks will continue,” he added.

Canada sends troops to Ukraine

In a related development, Canadian Special Forces have been deployed to Ukraine to deter “Russian aggression,” Canada’s Global News reported.

The soldiers will also help “develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion,” the report said.

Canada has so far declined to confirm the reported deployment.

Russia has repeatedly warned that Moscow will act if the US-led NATO military alliance crosses its red lines in Ukraine.


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