Antony Blinken heads to Ukraine as potential Russian invasion looms

WASHINGTON –  Secretary of State Antony Blinken will go to Ukraine this week and meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The journey comes as the Biden administration works to deter Russia from a potential invasion of its neighbor.

Blinken will land in Kyiv on Wednesday the place he’ll meet with Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The nation's high diplomat will even meet with the workers and households on the U.S. Embassy compound there to talk contingency plans ought to Russia select to escalate additional.

Ahead of the journey, Blinken spoke to his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on Tuesday and reiterated requires Moscow to de-escalate tensions by lowering its army build-up alongside Ukraine's border. During the decision, the 2 agreed to meet in Geneva on Friday.

Before heading to Switzerland, Blinken will journey to Berlin on Thursday to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to focus on joint efforts to deter additional Russian aggression towards Ukraine. He will elevate questions on allies' and companions' readiness to impose sweeping penalties and extreme financial prices on Russia within the wake of an invasion.

Blinken's journey comes on the heels of a number of high-stakes discussions between U.S. and European officers and their Russian counterparts. Following these conferences, the Biden administration accused Russia of getting ready a "false flag operation" to use as a prelude for an invasion of Ukraine. Russia has denied any such preparations.

"We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine," a senior State Department official mentioned on a convention name with reporters on Tuesday.

"President Putin created this crisis by enacting 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine's borders. This includes moving Russian forces into Belarus over the weekend. This is neither an exercise nor a normal troop movement. It is a show of strength designed to cause or give a false pretext for a crisis as Russia plans for a possible invasion," the official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity so as to share particulars of the journey, added.

A second senior State Department official mentioned that army workouts require notification of 42 days prematurely and workouts that contain greater than 10,000 troops require worldwide observers. "These numbers are beyond of course what we would expect with regards to a normal exercise," the official mentioned.

"What I know about the Kremlin, and what I know about President Putin is that he is an opportunist and he creates opportunities," the official mentioned.

"And so, it is incredibly important that we focus on when we see these kinds of instances. And when there is a concrete change in capability, that we acknowledge it and we see we call it for what it is in terms of his ability to create that opportunity," the official added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned Friday that intelligence companies monitoring Russian cyber operations towards Ukraine imagine the sample of exercise may sign a floor invasion of Ukraine throughout the subsequent 30 days.

The new timeline is the newest signal of how imminent the Biden administration believes a Russian assault towards Ukraine may very well be, and the way pressing its effort to negotiate a peaceable settlement has grow to be.

A militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) observes the realm at combating positions on the road of separation from the Ukrainian armed forces close to the rebel-controlled settlement of Yasne (Yasnoye) in Donetsk area, Ukraine January 14, 2022.Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

For months, the Ukrainian authorities has warned the U.S. and European allies that Russian troops had been massing alongside its japanese border.

The buildup has evoked Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked a world uproar and triggered a sequence of sanctions towards Moscow.

The seizure of Crimea additionally noticed Russia's elimination from the "Group of 8," or G-8, referring to the eight main international economies.

"We saw this playbook in 2014, and they are preparing this playbook again," nationwide safety advisor Jake Sullivan informed reporters on the White House final week, including that the United States is "ready either way."

The Kremlin has beforehand denied that it was getting ready for an invasion.

"The United States does not want conflict, we want peace. President Putin has it in his power to take steps to de-escalate this crisis so the United States and Russia can pursue a relationship that is not based on hostility or crisis," a senior State Department official mentioned.

At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby informed reporters that the Defense Department has seen "no signs of de-escalation."

"It would be difficult for us to say with specificity and certainty what we know Mr. Putin is driving at here and what his actual goals are. He is clearly building up a force posture there that provides him with multiple options," Kirby mentioned of the extra Russian troops deployed to Belarus.

"Of course, the option that we would prefer is for him to deescalate to take, take the tensions down and of course, one of the easiest ways to do that would be to remove some of that force presence," he added.

Last month, President Joe Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice amid the numerous army buildup on the Ukrainian border. During the primary name on Dec. 7, Biden declined to settle for Putin's "red lines" on Ukraine, together with that the nation would by no means be allowed to be a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization identified as NATO.

Since 2002, Ukraine has sought entry into NATO, the place the group's Article 5 clause states that an assault on one member nation is taken into account an assault on all of them.

Last week, Russian officers reiterated to NATO members and U.S. officers that it’s "absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO."

"We need ironclad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees. Not assurances, not safeguards, but guarantees," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov informed reporters throughout a Jan. 10 press convention.

During the leaders' most up-to-date name, on Dec. 30, Biden reiterated issues and renewed threats that his administration would "respond decisively" alongside allies and companions if Russia invades Ukraine.

Can harsh U.S. financial sanctions deter Russia from invading Ukraine?Defense

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