The highest US diplomat warns Moscow of the results of the build-up of Russian troops close to Ukraine
State Secretary Antony Blinken will hold a press conference at the end of a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting on March 24, 2021 at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Olivier Hoslet | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said Sunday he was concerned about the number of Russian troops gathering at the Ukrainian border and warned Moscow that "there will be consequences for aggressive behavior".
"I have to tell you that I have real concerns about Russia's actions on the borders of Ukraine. More Russian armed forces are gathered at these borders than ever since Russia first invaded in 2014," Blinken said during an interview on Meet the press "" Sunday.
"President Biden was very clear about this. If Russia acts ruthlessly or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences," Blinken said, adding that the United States was discussing the growing aggression at the border with allies and partners.
On Friday Blinken partly spoke to his German and French colleagues about "Russian provocations against Ukraine".
Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had consulted with NATO allies about rising tensions and ceasefire violations.
"The United States is increasingly concerned about the recent escalating Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border," she told reporters on Thursday, describing the matter as "deeply worrying."
Continue reading: The US is concerned about Russian troop movements near Ukraine and is discussing regional tensions with NATO allies
In recent weeks, Moscow has increased its military presence along the Ukrainian border, raising concerns in the West about a burgeoning military conflict between the two neighboring countries. The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that it will conduct more than 4,000 military exercises this month to review the readiness of its armed forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits positions of armed forces near the front with Russian-backed separatists during his working tour in the Donbass region of Ukraine on April 8, 2021.
Ukrainian President's Press Service | Handout | via Reuters
Last month, the Ukrainian government said four of its soldiers were killed by Russian shelling in Donbass. Moscow has denied that it has armed forces in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014, Kiev has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in a conflict that, according to the United States, killed at least 13,000 people.
Continue reading: The West is waiting for Putin's next move as tensions between Russia and Ukraine mount
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow would move its armed forces over Russian territory at its own discretion, describing the escalating tensions as "unprecedented". He also suggested that Ukraine was on the verge of civil war that would threaten Russia's security.
"The Kremlin fears that civil war could resume in Ukraine. And if civil war, extensive military action, resumes near our borders, it would endanger the security of the Russian Federation," Peskov told the Associated Press . "The ongoing escalation of tensions is unprecedented."
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of resuming "dangerous provocative actions" while calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, according to a Kremlin report. The Kremlin previously said it was concerned about mounting tensions in eastern Ukraine and feared that the Kiev armed forces would try to resume conflict.
Last week the Pentagon reiterated its call for the Kremlin to explain its decision to mobilize troops to the border.
"The Russians are busy building up a military along the eastern border of Ukraine and in Crimea, which is still part of Ukraine, and that's worrying. And we want to know more about what they're doing and what their intentions are that we do not believe that this is conducive to security and stability there, "Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet in person with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg at Alliance headquarters in Brussels later this week.