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In Ukraine, Blinken warns that Russia may attack at “very short notice”

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday that Russia has positioned itself to attack Ukraine at "very short notice", although he called on Moscow to follow a "diplomatic and peaceful path".

In remarks to the US Embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, Blinken said Russia's build-up of 100,000 troops had made it a "critical time for Ukraine."

"[W]"I know there are plans to increase that force even more at very short notice," Blinken said, "and it gives President Putin the capacity, even at very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine."

Blinken's visit to Kiev is the first of three last - minute stops diplomatic push It includes meetings with colleagues from Germany, France and Britain on Thursday and culminates in a personal meeting in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R) and US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will hold a press conference following their meeting at the Foreign Ministry on 19 January 2022 in Kiev. ALEX BRANDON / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

While in Kiev, Blinken offered a measured look ahead to the meeting in Geneva. "[W]I will see where we are at the end of the week, "he said, adding:" I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but in the end it will be President Putin's decision. "

Blinken's engagements mostly follow a week fruitless diplomatic talks that the Russians claimed had hit a "dead end". For weeks, Moscow has made a set of public demands for binding security guarantees from the West that the NATO alliance will not expand to the east to include Ukraine as a member, and to reduce the troops and weapons currently stationed in Eastern and Baltic European countries. states.

The United States and NATO have rejected these Russian demands as "non-starters" while offering to enter into negotiations on other security issues such as arms control.

After meetings with President Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday, Blinken told reporters that he would not provide written answers on Friday to Russia's demands - an expectation that Moscow has repeatedly raised.

"I will not present a paper at that time to Foreign Minister Lavrov. We need to see where we are and see if there are still opportunities to pursue diplomacy and pursue dialogue, which again, as I said, is far from the best course, "Blinken said.

He also called for unity on the part of the Ukrainian government, which has been plagued by domestic political unrest, although the threat of Russian aggression is rising.

"Our strength depends on maintaining our unity, and that includes unity in Ukraine," Blinken said. "I think one of Moscow's long-term goals has been to try to sow division between and within countries, and we simply can and will not let them do that."

U.S. officials have issued increasingly urgent warnings about the potential for a Russian invasion in recent days. Last Friday, the Biden administration accused Moscow of prepositioning trained operators in Ukraine who could carry out "acts of sabotage" against Russian proxy forces to create a pretext for invasion.

Yesterday, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Russia's recent move of troops and hardware into neighboring Belarus was "neither an exercise nor a normal troop movement", and could open up yet another front in a potential invasion.

In a think tank in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov again denied that the Kremlin had plans to invade Ukraine.

"I am sure there is no risk of a large-scale war that could break out in Europe or elsewhere," he said, Russian state media reported. "We do not intend to take any aggressive action. We will not attack, attack or invade Ukraine."

But he reiterated Moscow's demands to limit future NATO enlargement.

"The priority for us is to obtain solid legally binding assurances from the United States about it [Ukraine], along with the other countries we have already mentioned, will not become NATO members, "Ryabkov said.

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