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Blinken visits Poland as Russia’s advance in Ukraine persists

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, left, and Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbiegniew Rau take part in a news conference in Rzeszow, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Photo by AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting eastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as Russia’s military operation in the country continues amid a stalemate in Kyiv-Moscow security talks.

Blinken arrived in the Polish city of Rzeszow on Saturday for talks with Poland’s top officials and was expected to go to a frontier post to meet with Ukrainian refugees later in the day, AP reported.

Rzeszow is about 80 kilometers from the Ukraine border and its airport has become a major hub for flights carrying military supplies for Ukrainian armed forces.

Blinken met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau a day after attending a summit meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels during which the US-led military alliance reiterated its pledge to expand support for eastern flank members such as Poland in efforts counter Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Blinken emphasized that his visit to Poland was coming at "one of the most urgent moments in the long history between our two countries," vowing that recent deployments of American forces to the country would continue.

The development comes amid reports of a massive US-led transfer of advanced weapons into Ukraine despite Russian warnings that the huge delivery of modern armaments might fall into the hands of terrorists who might use weapons, such as the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft systems, to threaten civilian aviation.

Blinken’s polish counterpart said his country had already taken in more than 700,000 Ukrainian refugees and that he expected hundreds of thousands more in the coming weeks if the conflict in the neighboring country continues.

"Poland will never recognize territorial changes brought about by unprovoked, unlawful aggression," he then claimed, insisting that Warsaw will demand that alleged Russian “war crimes committed in Ukraine” will be prosecuted.

Following his meeting with Blinken, Morawiecki also said they had agreed on the need to further bolster NATO's eastern flank and strengthen Europe's security architecture.

According to the report, Warsaw is pleading for the deployment of more US troops on its territory, where there are already over 10,000 American forces.

The two officials further discussed expanding anti-Russia sanctions and freezing of Moscow’s assets, which Morawiecki said should be "crushing" for Russia's economy.

He then underlined that no Russian banks should be exempted from the exclusions from the SWIFT system, the report added, noting that currently, all but the largest Russian banks have been kicked off the financial messaging service.

Although NATO has ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over non-member Ukraine, it has significantly boosted both military and humanitarian assistance.

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