US’s Antony Blinken and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hold a news conference in Washington. File/AP
The buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine has left US officials perplexed, muddying the Biden administration’s response.
Some Republican lawmakers have been pressing the US to step up military support for Ukraine. But that risks turning what may be mere muscle-flexing by Russian President Vladimir Putin into a full-blown confrontation that only adds to the peril for Ukraine and could trigger an energy crisis in Europe.
The White House on Friday called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine, saying it has raised its concerns about Moscow's military buildup directly.
"We also continue to have serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric towards Ukraine and call on Moscow to de-escalate tensions," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting. File photo
President Vladimir Putin has issued his own warnings. On Thursday, he said the West was taking Russia's directives not to cross its "red lines" too lightly.
But a weak US response carries its own risks. It could embolden Putin to take more aggressive steps against Ukraine as fears grow he could try to seize more of its territory. And it could cause more political damage for President Joe Biden at a time his popularity is dropping.
Knowing how to strike the right balance would be easier if the US had a better understanding of what Putin was trying to accomplish. But top officials admit they don’t know.
On Friday, the Kremlin said those remarks were a response to provocative actions by NATO including the arming of Ukraine. Ukraine objects to increasing Russian military activity near the 1208 mile (1944 km) border it shares with Russia.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting. File photo
Despite a growing list of disputes, the Kremlin has maintained high-level contacts with Washington and spoken repeatedly of a possible summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden to follow up their initial meeting in Geneva in June, which Putin said had opened up room for an improvement in ties.
"We’re not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday. A week earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook."
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused Ukraine of failing to implement the 2015 Minsk agreement saying: “Over those six years, we still haven’t gotten an answer to two very important questions: How exactly does Ukraine intend to peacefully resolve the conflict,
There has been a recent spike in violence in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region where Kyiv’s troops have battled Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict it estimates has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
Lloyd Austin is planning to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defence Minister Andriy Taran, less than two months after both came to Washington to meet President Joe Biden, seeking assurances of US support.
“We thought it had a wound on its forehead before we found an eye and four nostrils seen by the locals who gathered in our house after it was born and gave us coconuts and flowers as gifts for the born calf,” said farmer Hemant Chandel.
Flights to six destinations will resume on Friday, and on Saturday services to Boston, Houston and San Francisco will return to Boeing 777 planes after having been changed to Airbus A380s, the Dubai-based carrier said in a statement.
Regarding the news on the suspension of some flights to certain US airports due to 5G deployment, the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) has clarified that this issue is exclusively related to the relevant US airports.
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