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US: Russian plans in place to increase force near Ukraine border

Supporters of Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko hold a rally outside the presidential administration headquarters in Kyiv. - Reuters
Supporters of Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko hold a rally outside the presidential administration headquarters in Kyiv. - Reuters

KIEV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States knows that there are Russian plans in place to increase an already "very significant force" near the Ukrainian border on very short notice.


That would give Russian President Vladimir Putin the capacity, "also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine.


"We have been engaged in the past couple of months in an intense focus on Ukraine because of the significant buildup we've seen of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border," Blinken told US embassy staff in Kiev on Wednesday.


Blinken landed in Ukraine on Wednesday morning amid severe tensions and concerns that Ukraine's lingering conflict with Russia could be on the verge of heating up due to Russian provocation.


He is to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.


"This is a diplomatic effort to de-escalate tensions surrounding the unprovoked Russian military build-up on Ukraine's borders," he wrote on Twitter.


The US embassy in Kiev released a video of the arrival of the secretary of state, who then plans to travel on to Berlin for talks scheduled for Thursday.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also called on Russia to de-escalate tensions near the borders with Ukraine during a virtual plenary at the World Economic Forum, saying that borders must not be moved by force.


"The Russian side is aware of our determination. I hope they also realise that the gains of cooperation outweigh the price of further confrontation."


"It is still too early to tell whether [talks] will help de-escalate the situation Russia created by concentrating 100,000 troops alongthe border with Ukraine," he said. "But after years of rising tensions, staying silent is not a sensible option."


On Friday, Blinken plans to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks in Geneva.


The US and Nato have been accusing Russia of planning an incursion into Ukraine for months. Russia denies this.


"We stress once again: Russia will not attack anyone," Moscow's embassy in Washington announced.


For its part, Russia accuses the US and its allies of arming Ukraine for years, thereby fuelling the confrontation.


The US and its allies need to stop weapons deliveries to Ukraine, because supplying them endangers Russia, according to the Kremlin's deputy foreign minister.


Sergei Ryabkov told a discussion forum that the European security situation is "critical" and put the blame on Washington and Nato, which he said are using Ukraine to apply pressure on Russia. - dpa


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