U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that while Russia has withdrawn some forces from the Ukrainian border region, “significant forces” and equipment remain there and the United States wants Russia to “cease reckless and aggressive actions.”
Speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, Blinken said Russia still “has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive action if it so chooses.”
“I admire the restraint Ukraine has shown in the face of those provocative actions,” Blinken said.
Late last month, senior U.S. and European Union officials said roughly 150,000 Russian troops had massed along the border of Ukraine and in the Crimea region, more than at any time since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.
Russia said the forces were taking part in military exercises and as of late April were returning to their bases.
Zelenskiy said Thursday there remains a threat in the border region, and that Ukraine does not want any surprises.
Blinken said the United States is looking at further security assistance to Ukraine, and that Russia’s actions were the subject of extensive discussions at recent NATO and G-7 meetings.
He also said Thursday’s talks included the Minsk agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has been supporting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region. Blinken said the United States will keep looking for ways to advance diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, and that “Russia continues to be the recalcitrant party.”
During the meeting, Zelenskiy and Blinken also discussed efforts to institute democratic reforms and battle corruption in Ukraine.
Blinken said both Russian challenges to Ukraine’s sovereignty and corrupt actors within Ukraine involve the same fundamental issues, which is seeking to “take away from the Ukrainian people what is rightfully theirs.”
And he said that while there are still significant challenges in battling corruption, “there has been real progress as well.”