Blinken in Kyiv to back Ukraine as Putin stares down West

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday to choose "a peaceful path" as the top U.S. diplomat paid a solidarity visit to Ukraine amid invasion fears.

"I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but ultimately, that's going to be President Putin's decision," Blinken said at the U.S. embassy.

If Putin does not pursue diplomacy, Blinken warned, he will be choosing "confrontation and consequences for Russia."

After his meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior officials and a short trip to Berlin for talks with German and other European allies today, Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tomorrow in Geneva amid Western alarm over the deployment of tens of thousands of Russian troops to Ukraine's borders. Blinken voiced concern that Russian movements may be far from over.

"We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine," Blinken said.

Belarus, which also borders Ukraine and whose strongman Alexander Lukashenko is an ally of Putin, on Jan. 18 announced the arrival of Russian troops for what it described as drills.

Blinken said that Russia, which is demanding guarantees that Ukraine not be allowed into NATO, was acting with "no provocation, no reason."

Russia is looking "to challenge some very basic principles that undergird the entire international system and are necessary for trying to keep peace and security, the principles like one nation can't simply change the borders of another by force," Blinken said.


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