US affirms 'unwavering support' for Ukraine in face of Russian aggression

US affirms 'unwavering support' for Ukraine in face of Russian aggression
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden administration prepared to use 'other tools' on Iran amid troubled nuclear talks US intelligence says Russia planning Ukraine offensive involving 175K troops: reports Blinken: A move by China to invade Taiwan would have 'terrible consequences' MORE affirmed the United States' “unwavering support” for Ukraine on Tuesday in the face of heightened military tensions with Russia.

Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels on the sidelines of his trip to NATO headquarters this week, part of a series of meetings with allies that are meant to address the growing concern of Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s eastern border, among other things.

“Secretary Blinken affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. 

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“The Secretary expressed concern about Russia’s deliberate actions to escalate tensions with Ukraine, including through its aggressive rhetoric and disinformation, increasing ceasefire violations, and movement of troops in occupied Crimea and near Ukraine’s borders.” 

Blinken is in Brussels, along with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden administration prepared to use 'other tools' on Iran amid troubled nuclear talks Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine MORE, to meet with NATO allies about shared priorities, including a looming May 1 deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan — an agreement that was negotiated by the Trump administration.

But Ukraine is also at the top of the agenda, with NATO holding a NATO-Ukraine council meeting on Tuesday.

Russian-backed separatists have been fighting against Ukrainian forces in the east of the country since 2014, shortly after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which the international community considers illegal. 

European countries have put their support behind Kyiv in the face of the Russian troop buildup on its eastern border. 

The U.S. on Monday joined Group of Seven countries in a statement condemning Russia for its unannounced troop movements on Ukraine’s border and in Crimea. Russia was kicked out of the G-7 — then the Group of Eight — in 2014 for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. 

And Blinken has earlier reiterated that President BidenJoe BidenMarcus Garvey's descendants call for Biden to pardon civil rights leader posthumously GOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors MORE is prepared to impose consequences on Moscow if it “acts recklessly and aggressively.” 

“The President before he was elected made clear that, again, when it comes to Russia’s actions there’ll be costs and consequences if it acts recklessly and aggressively, and you can hold him to that word,” Blinken said Sunday in an interview with the hosts of NBC’s "Meet the Press." 

European and Eurasian Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Philip Reeker told reporters on Monday that there are more Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s borders than at any time since 2014, when Moscow first invaded Ukraine. 

“What we’re focused on now is discussion and meeting with our allies and others who are equally concerned,” Reeker said, adding that the U.S. is coordinating with allies and using forum’s like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to try and de-escalate the situation. 

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Russia is pushing back on America's support for Ukraine, further heightening tensions between the former Cold War foes

“The United States is our adversary and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited as saying by Russian news agencies, Reuters reported.

The Ukrainian military said on Monday that at least one soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in artillery fire by Russian-backed forces, The Associated Press reported, with total casualties so far this year reaching 27 soldiers.

More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting since the start of the conflict.