US urges Putin to take peaceful path on Ukraine

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has called on Russia to take a “diplomatic and peaceful path” as fears mount of a new invasion of Ukraine.
An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed near Ukraine’s borders and Mr Blinken, visiting Kyiv, said Russia could launch an attack at a very short notice.
The US has promised to boost security assistance for Ukraine.
Russia has repeatedly denied planning to invade the country.
Mr Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Friday, after talks with European allies in Berlin.
Ahead of his visit to Kyiv, senior state department officials indicated that Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, may be offered the option of a “diplomatic off-ramp” in Geneva. The White House said no option was off the table.
Russia has made a raft of demands to Western governments, including that Ukraine should never join National Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and that the defensive alliance’s military activities should be limited in member state, including Poland. Talks between the West and Russia last week failed to reach a breakthrough, with some of Moscow’s demands rejected as non-starters.
“I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but ultimately, that’s going to be President Putin’s decision,” Mr Blinken told reporters in Kyiv.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US could not force Moscow to move its troops away from the Ukrainian border.
“They are on our territory and we won’t be making any changes to their movement because of external pressure,” he said.
Instead, he urged Washington to stop its military support for Ukraine which he said posed a direct threat to Russian security.
Although Russia says it has no plans for an invasion, tensions remain high near Ukraine’s borders – with Russian troops deployed in neighbouring Belarus for what have been termed joint military exercises.
Mr Lavrov also rejected US claims that Russia was preparing a pretext for a military operation in Ukraine as “total disinformation”.
Mr Blinken’s visit to Kyiv on Wednesday was described as a bid to “reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, before talks in Berlin on Thursday with German, French and British counterparts. -BBC

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