Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans to visit Ukraine in the aftermath of a tense stand-off with Russia.
Russia recently engaged in some saber-rattling when it amassed troops along the Ukrainian border, claiming that the troops were running drills in Crimea — a disputed republic that is claimed by Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Blinken revealed that he will visit Ukraine next week as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebo demands that Russia provide an explanation for the aggressive maneuvers.
In this Feb. 4, 2021 file photo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (AP)
Blinken will spend time in the country on Wednesday and Thursday, with the intention to “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” a State Department spokesman told the AFP.
He will meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during that time, as well.
Blinken told “60 Minutes” that there are “more forces amassed on the border with Ukraine than any time since 2014.”
“I can’t tell you that we know Mr. [Vladimir] Putin’s intentions,” Blinken said. “There are any number of things that he could do or choose not to do.”
“What we have seen in the last few days is apparently a decision to pull back some of those forces and we’ve seen some of them in fact start to pull back,” he added.
The State Department did not return Fox News’ request for comment.
Following the completion of the drills, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the military to pull troops back to their permanent bases. He told them to leave their weapons behind for another exercise later this year.
“I consider the goals of the snap check of readiness fulfilled,” Shoigu said. “The troops have shown their capability to defend the country and I decided to complete the drills in the South and Western military districts.”
Yuval Weber, an expert on Russia and Eurasia at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, said that the decision to leave the weapons behind was a clear parallel to Moscow’s preparations prior to an offensive with Georgia in 2008.
“The troop buildup has been to some extent normalized, so the next time there is a troop buildup it will be a little less surprising,” Weber told AFP.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Peter Aitken is a New York born-and-raised reporter with a focus on national and global news.