'Russia could invade any moment' – Blinken
Russian soldiers, tanks, and military hardware could begin pouring over the shared border with Ukraine with little or no warning, Washington’s top diplomat has told American embassy staff in Kiev as part of a whistle-stop diplomatic tour of Europe.
Speaking to officials in the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “as you all know very, very well, 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 we’ve seen near the Ukrainian border.”
He claimed that Russia is amassing troops and weapons systems near the frontier “with no provocation, no reason.”
“We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives Russian President [Vladimir] Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine,” Blinken claimed.
The diplomat also reiterated his support to staff working in the Eastern European nation. “I can imagine that this period is especially difficult, stressful, and maybe even scary,” he said. “We have your backs, as you’ve had ours for so many years.”
“We as a department in Washington are here for you and are very, very focused on the wellbeing, the safety, the security of our community here, including your families,” the official stressed.
Blinken’s remarks come amid concerns in recent months that Moscow is plotting to stage an invasion of its neighbor. Speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the situation is now “extremely dangerous,” and at a point where Washington believes that “Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”
A report published earlier this week by The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, claimed that Moscow has started to evacuate its diplomats and their families from its embassy in Kiev and consulate in Lvov.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that “The Russian embassy in Kiev is working normally,” but did not comment on whether staff numbers were being cut.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the accusations that it is planning to attack, with its press secretary Dmitry Peskov slamming them as “groundless” and manifestations of “hysteria.” The official also previously said that the movement of the country’s armed forces on its own territory is an internal matter and of no concern to anyone else.
Russian officials met with their American counterparts last week to discuss proposals for security guarantees they say would help reduce the risk of conflict, including barring Ukraine from joining NATO.
Jens Stoltenberg, the US-led bloc’s secretary general, has described the draft treaties put forward by Russia as unacceptable, saying that “the decision on whether Ukraine can join NATO will be taken by Ukraine and 30 NATO Allies alone.”