Blinken to visit Ukraine next week to ‘reaffirm US support’

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ukraine next week to show his “unwavering” support after Russian troops gathered at its border, the State Department said on Friday.

Russia has deployed in recent weeks up to 100,000 troops near the northern and eastern borders of Ukraine as well as in Crimea, seized by Moscow in 2014, raising fears of a major escalation.

But Moscow announced on April 23 that it had started withdrawing its forces, bringing at least momentary relief to Kiev and the NATO alliance.

Blinken’s visit on Wednesday and Thursday aims to “ reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, ” the spokesperson said. State Department Ned Price spoke in a statement.

Blinken will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and also push for action against corruption, a long-standing demand from Ukraine’s western partners, Price said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Ukraine next week to show ‘unwavering’ support after Russian troops gather at its border

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) inspects southern front positions near the Crimean border - he will meet with Blinken next week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) inspects southern front positions near the Crimean border – he will meet with Blinken next week

Blinken’s trip comes as President Joe Biden steps up pressure on Russia, but also prepares for a proposed summit with his counterpart Vladimir Putin in the hope of stabilizing relations.

‘It’s the old-fashioned business of Secretaries of State, going to places to do photo ops to say, yes the United States cares about you and supports the government in charge of various political issues, ” said Yuval Weber, an expert. on Russia and Eurasia at the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center and the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M in Washington.

Weber said Russia’s recent show of force was meant to send a message to the new Biden administration – and would keep Ukraine on edge.

While Russia withdrew its troops after its exercises, it left defense equipment behind in border regions, which Weber said was a clear parallel to Moscow’s preparations before its offensive with Georgia in 2008.

“The troop build-up has been normalized to some extent, so the next time there is a troop build-up it will be a little less surprising,” Weber said.

Russia signaled “that we have great capacities to do something in the future, and they can instill additional insecurity in the Ukrainian body politic and the Ukrainian spirit”.

Zelensky singled out Russian troop movements to demand an acceleration of NATO membership, a prospect opposed by West Europeans concerned about Russia’s response and which met with a cold reception in Washington.

More than 13,000 people have died in Ukraine since 2014 in the only active fight on European soil as Kiev clashes with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

A ceasefire that took root last July has been destroyed, with clashes increasing sharply between Ukrainian forces and separatists since January.

Biden has previously imposed sanctions and expelled Russian diplomats for alleged Russian election interference, hacking, and treating ailing dissident Alexei Navalny, a toughening of the resolution after former President Donald Trump expressed admiration for Putin and Ukrainian conspiracy theories.

Zelensky’s strong arming of Trump to dig up dirt on Biden sparked his first indictment and appears to be linked to an FBI raid on Wednesday on the home of Trump’s former personal attorney, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

The Biden administration has renewed pressure on Ukraine to root out corruption and improve governance.

The implementation of reforms will be “essential to guarantee democratic institutions, economic prosperity and the Euro-Atlantic future of Ukraine”, said Price.

On the eve of the trip’s announcement, the State Department criticized Ukraine for impeaching the head of the national energy company Naftogaz, saying the reshuffle showed “ a disregard for fair corporate governance practices and transparent ”.

Russia has deployed up to 100,000 troops near Ukraine's northern and eastern borders in recent weeks - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspects southern front line

Russia has deployed up to 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders in recent weeks – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspects southern front line

In addition to his meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Secretary of State Blinken will be in London for meetings before the G7

In addition to his meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Secretary of State Blinken will be in London for meetings before the G7

Blinken will be in Europe next week for critical talks on Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan and the frayed transatlantic ties the Biden administration hopes to mend, the State Department said.

The department said Blinken will travel to London from Monday for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 7 industrialized democracies.

Blinken’s trip to London is primarily designed to prepare for Biden’s participation in a summit of G7 leaders that Britain will host in June. But it also aims to present a united front to address the global challenges posed by China, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

The G7 meeting in London is being held against the backdrop of the Biden administration’s drive to reestablish close cooperative ties with US allies, including on the confrontation with China, Russia and climate change. Yet it also comes at a time of widespread unease over Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in September.

Blinken “looks forward to discussing the democratic values ​​we share with our partners and allies in the G7,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The United States will discuss how we can work with other countries to resolve the major geopolitical issues we face as we rebuild better after this pandemic.”

Blinken’s talks in London, which will include separate meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, will also focus on economic growth, human rights, food security, gender equality. gender and the empowerment of women and girls, Price said.

After the G7 meetings on Monday and Tuesday, Blinken will travel to Kiev on Wednesday and Thursday.



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