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Blinken calls for unity in the fight against'relentless Russian aggression'

KYIV, Ukraine (AP), U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken urged the west Wednesday to stand united against what he called "relentless Russian aggression" against Ukraine. He also assured Ukraine's leader that they are there for them.

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Blinken calls for unity in the fight against'relentless Russian aggression'

During a visit to Kyiv, Blinken informed Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the U.S. was steadfast in supporting his country and its democratic aspirations despite growing concerns about a possible Russian invasion.

"The Ukrainian people chose a democratic, European path in 1991. They marched to the Maidan in defense of that choice in 2013. Unfortunately, you have faced constant aggression from Moscow ever since," Blinken stated. He was referring to Ukraine’s path since the fall of the Soviet Union.

He said to Zelenskyy, "Our strength is dependent on preserving our unity, and that includes unity in Ukraine." "I believe that Moscow has tried to inflict divisions within and between our countries for a long time. We cannot allow this to happen, and we will not permit them to do so."

According to the Biden administration, it provided $200 million more in military assistance to Ukraine earlier to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Zelenskyy thanked Blinken, who was confirmed on Wednesday but was not officially approved until Wednesday, for his assistance and for visiting the area.

"This (military support) not only speaks about our strategic plans for Ukraine joining the alliance but also to the level of military, military supplies," he stated, referring to Kyiv’s desire to join NATO over Russia’s strong objections.

"We need your help, especially in these difficult times, if we want to take rapid steps towards modernizing our military," Zelenskyy stated. Your visit is extremely important. It demonstrates once again that you are committed to our sovereignty and independence."

As U.S. officials and western officials raised increasingly alarming concerns about a possible Russian invasion, the aid announcement was made at the beginning of Blinken’s hurry-up visit.

Blinken stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a position to launch military action against Ukraine immediately and without delay. He has more than 100,000 troops encamped at the border of Ukraine and plans to add more.

According to Blinken, "We know there are plans to increase that force even further on very brief notice" and that President Putin has the ability, also on very brief notice, to take further aggressive actions against Ukraine.

Blinken will be making a brief trip to Berlin on Thursday to meet with Zelenskyy, and other top Ukrainian officials. He will also visit Germany and other European allies. On Friday, he will see Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, his Russian counterpart. Officials said that the meeting was intended to test Russia's willingness and ability to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

Putin is being accused by the administration and its European allies of creating the crisis through the massing of troops along Ukraine's border. It is up to Putin and the Russians whether they want to invade or suffer severe economic consequences.

Russia has refused to withdraw its troops, claiming that it is entitled to place its forces anywhere it wants on its territory. The U.S. claims that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine have been rejected by the Russians. Lavrov called the U.S. claims "total disinformation."

The U.S. is not certain if Putin intends to invade the country or if the use of force is meant to extract security concessions, without a conflict. Last week's inconclusive diplomatic negotiations between Moscow and the West failed to resolve their stark differences over Ukraine and other security issues.

These meetings have actually increased fear of Russian invasion and the Biden administration accuses Russia of planning a false flag operation to be used as a pretext to intervene. Russia has rebuffed the accusation.

William Burns, Director of the CIA, visited Kyiv last Wednesday to meet with his Ukrainian counterparts to discuss current assessments regarding Ukraine's risk.

Blinken called L avrov on Tuesday to discuss his face-toface meeting and stressed the importance of maintaining a diplomatic path to deescalate tensions, according to the State Department.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia is expecting a written reply this week from the U.S., its allies to Moscow’s request for binding assurances that NATO will not accept Ukraine or other ex-Soviet nations or station its forces or weapons there.

Blinken stressed to Lavrov Tuesday that any discussion about European security must include NATO Allies, European Partners and Ukraine," the State Department stated.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov stressed in the call with Blinken key elements of Russian draft documents. They envisaged "legally binding guarantees for Russia's security in accord with the principle of independence of security approved by all nations in the Euro-Atlantic." Washington should respond to Russian proposals quickly.

Washington and its allies strongly rejected Moscow's demands last week during Russia-U.S. talks in Geneva and the related NATO-Russia meeting at Brussels. It doesn't appear likely that the Biden administration will respond to Russia in writing.

The White House accuses Russia of sending operatives to rebel-controlled Ukraine to commit acts of sabotage and then blames them on Ukraine in order to create a pretext to possible invasion.

To emphasize support from Congress for Ukraine, a delegation comprised of U.S. senators visited Ukraine just before Blinken's visit in Kyiv.

After the death of the Moscow-friendly leader of Ukraine, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It also supported a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. In the eight-year conflict between Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine and Ukrainian forces in the country’s industrial heartland, Donbas, more than 14,000 people were killed.

Putin warned that Moscow would take unspecified military-technical measures if the West refuses to comply with its demands.

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