U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern Thursday about what he called Russia’s “aggressive posture” toward Ukraine as he met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hours before scheduled talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
“You know, the Ukrainian people know, the unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty, its independence,” Blinken told Kuleba at the start of their meeting in Stockholm.
Kuleba said Ukraine would “continue to demonstrate restraint” while calling on allies to prepare potential actions that would make Russian President Vladimir Putin “think twice before resorting to military force.”
After meeting with NATO allies on Wednesday, Blinken said such measures could include “a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”
He said Russia would face “far-reaching and long-lasting consequences” for new aggression toward Ukraine, and that "diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis.”
A senior State Department official told reporters that Blinken would reiterate those points directly to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Thursday.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told members of the parliament Wednesday that direct negotiations with Russia were the only path to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have each accused the other side of massing troops in the area along their shared border. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking Wednesday in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government would seek guarantees against NATO’s further expansion to the east and precluding deployment of weapons systems near Russia’s borders.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.