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Blinken: US stands with Ukraine in face of Russian aggression

Blinken: US stands with Ukraine in face of Russian aggression
© CARLOS BARRIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPelosi signals no further action against Omar US drops sanctions on Iranian officials as nuclear talks stall Senior Chinese diplomat talks with Blinken amid debate over competitiveness bill MORE on Thursday raised concerns over Russian troops remaining along its border with Ukraine while affirming U.S. support for Kyiv.

The secretary made his remarks in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell while in the Ukrainian capital, in his first visit to the country as America’s top diplomat.

Russian military officials said last week that troops massing at Russia’s border with Ukraine were returning to bases following the completion of military exercises and training.

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But the buildup of Russian troops drew condemnation from the U.S., NATO and other allied nations as provocative posturing by Moscow.

They criticized Russia for threatening a dangerous escalation of ongoing fighting between Ukrainian forces in the country’s eastern Donbas region and Russian-backed separatists.

Blinken said on Thursday that despite a drawdown of Russian troops, “significant forces remain” and that the U.S. stands in support with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

“Some of the heavy equipment has been pulled back, but other heavy equipment remains. They can turn that around fairly quickly,” Blinken said in a preview of his remarks during the interview.

“What we're doing is making clear our commitment to helping Ukraine defend itself, with security assistance,” the secretary continued, and making clear to Moscow that the international community “is resolutely against any Russian aggression, reckless actions in Ukraine.”

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“There have been long-standing sanctions on Russia as a result of the actions it took. And I hope that we don't see anymore,” Blinken said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are a key flashpoint amid the broader strained relations between Washington and Moscow. The U.S. has instituted a range of punitive actions against Russia since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, which the international community calls illegal.

President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE is expected to meet in-person with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden must up the ante to get what he wants from Putin MORE sometime this summer, in a  high-stakes opportunity for the two leaders to address a wide range of tensions while seeking to preserve key areas of cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation, mediating regional conflicts, addressing climate change and overcoming the pandemic.

Biden, who agreed with an interviewer who asked if the president thought Putin was a "killer," imposed last month a range of sanctions against Moscow for a host of malign behavior taken against the U.S., including election interference, the massive SolarWinds hack and reported bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The president has also imposed sanctions on Russia over an attempted assassination with chemical weapons targeting Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.