US warns Putin against making another ‘serious mistake’ on Ukraine and says its support for Kiev is ‘ironclad’ following Russian troop movements on border
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is ‘concerned’ by ‘unusual Russian activity’ near the border amid fears Putin could march into the country in an attempt to annex more territory, as he did with Crimea in 2014.
Blinken, speaking in Washington alongside Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, said that would be a ‘serious mistake’ – adding that America’s ‘commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, to its independence, to its territorial integrity is ironclad.’
America has warned Russia against making a ‘serious mistake’ by trying to annex more Ukrainian territory after troops were spotted massing on the border (pictured)
Ukraine says there are now around 90,000 Russian troops near its border with tanks and artillery pieces spotted in camps near Yelnya, Bryansk and Kursk
‘We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook,’ Blinken told a joint news conference.
‘Our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014 when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked.
‘Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, to its independence, to its territorial integrity is ironclad, and the international community will see through any Russian effort to resort to its previous tactics.’
Ukraine has been ensnared in a deadly war with pro-Moscow separatists in its largely Russian-speaking east since 2014 when Russia seized the Crimea peninsula.
Russia took action after mass protests led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, a close ally of Moscow who had tried to backtrack on moves to join the European Union.
Fearing that Ukraine was about to slip out of Russian control – taking with it important military assets including the port of Sevastopol in Crimea – Putin marched troops into the country and seized territory.
Crimea is now occupied by Russian troops. Moscow claims it as part of its territory after holding a referendum which showed overwhelming support for joining Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said America’s ‘commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, to its independence, to its territorial integrity is ironclad’
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country will be working with the US to step up its defences, while denying the country will attack anyone
But Western leaders say the poll – carried out under the watchful eye of Russian troops – is illegitimate and calls the peninsula ‘Russian-occupied Ukraine’.
Putin’s regime was hit by sanctions, many of which remain in place, as a result of the move which has soured Russian relations with the West ever since.
There were fears that Putin was about to stage another invasion of Ukraine early this year when more than 100,000 troops, tanks and artillery pieces massed on the border without warning in April.
Putin insisted he was merely testing the military’s readiness before pulling some of the troops back, though NATO says many of the forces remained in place.
Ukraine warned earlier this month that Russian troops near the border now number around 90,000 including airborne units that recently held drills in the area and have remained behind after the exercise was complete.
Satellite images shared with Politico also showed a build-up of tanks and artillery pieces near the towns of Yelnya, Bryansk and Kursk.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine was looking to work with the United States to step up its defenses and ‘does not intend to attack anyone.’
Putin marched troops into Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014 after the Moscow-friendly government was toppled in a revolution, leading to sanctions against his regime
‘The best way to deter an aggressive Russia is to make it clear for the Kremlin that Ukraine is strong, but also that it has strong allies that will not leave it on its own in the face of Moscow’s ever increasing aggressiveness,’ Kuleba said.
‘Russian aggression against Ukraine will end on the day Ukraine’s place as part of the West is institutionalized and undoubted,’ he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the movement by Russia was ‘unusual in its size and scope.’
‘We urge Russia to be clear about their intentions and to abide by their Minsk agreements,’ he said, referring to agreements to try to halt the fighting inside Ukraine.
The comments followed a rare visit to Moscow last week by the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, who spoke on the phone with President Vladimir Putin.
CNN reported that President Joe Biden deployed Burns, the former US ambassador to Moscow, to raise the issue of the Russian troop surge directly with the Kremlin.