The United States warned Russia on Wednesday not to make another “serious mistake” with Ukraine as it sought to shed light on Moscow’s troop movements near the border of the two countries.
Welcoming Ukraine’s Foreign Minister to Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “concerned by reports of unusual Russian activity near Ukraine.”
“We are not certain about Moscow’s intentions, but we know its manual,” Blinken warned at a joint press conference.
“Our concern is that Russia may make the grave mistake of trying to repeat what it undertook in 2014, when it accumulated troops along the border, crossed into sovereign territory of Ukraine and did so falsely claiming that it was provocation,” he added.
“Our commitment to the sovereignty of Ukraine, its independence and its territorial integrity is ironclad, and the international community will be aware of any Russian effort to resort to its previous tactics,” Blinken anticipated.
Ukraine has been locked in a deadly war with pro-Moscow separatists in the east since 2014, when Russia seized the Crimean peninsula.
Russia took action after mass protests led to the removal of the president who had suspended efforts to get closer to the European Union.
In March, Russia also crowded 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s borders. It withdrew, but both Ukraine and the United States claimed at the time that the withdrawal was partial.
– Looking for clarity –
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Ukraine was seeking to work with the United States to intensify its defenses and “does not intend to attack anyone.”
“The best way to deter an aggressive Russia is to make it clear to the Kremlin that Ukraine is strong, but also that it has strong allies who will not leave it alone in the face of growing aggressiveness from Moscow,” Kuleba warned.
“Russian aggression against Ukraine will end the day that Ukraine’s place as part of the West is institutionalized and undoubted,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described Russia’s move as “unusual in its size and scope.”
“We urge Russia to be clear about its intentions and to abide by its Minsk agreements,” he requested, referring to commitments to try to stop fighting inside Ukraine.
The comments came after an unusual visit to Moscow last week by the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, who spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CNN reported that President Joe Biden sent Burns, a former US ambassador to Moscow, to raise the issue of the Russian troop surge directly with the Kremlin.