- America’s top diplomat is heading to Ukraine next week.
- This trip comes on the heels of a Russian military buildup that sparked fears of an invasion.
- The State Department said the trip is about showing support to Ukraine against Russian aggression.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Ukraine next week as a sign of support after a recent buildup of Russia troops at the Ukrainian border that raised fears of a potential invasion.
Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the trip, which the State Department in a statement said is designed to “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
“He will also encourage continued progress on Ukraine’s institutional reform agenda, particularly anti-corruption action, which is key to securing Ukraine’s democratic institutions, economic prosperity, and Euro-Atlantic future,” the statement added. This will be Blinken’s third trip abroad since becoming the top US diplomat.
Ukraine has been fighting a war against Kremlin-backed rebels in the eastern Donbass region since 2014, the same year that Russian President Vladimir Putin unilaterally annexed Crimea. The bloody conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives, and remains a point of contention between Moscow and the West.
More recently, Russia amassed roughly 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, raising alarm bells across Europe and in Washington. After weeks of tensions over the buildup, Putin in a speech last Thursday warned that anyone who threatens Russia’s security will “regret” it.
The next day, Russia abruptly announced it was pulling its troops back from the Ukrainian border. “The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension,” Zelensky said in a tweet responding to the announcement. The Ukrainian leader added that Ukraine is “always vigilant” but “welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence” and “deescalate the situation” in Donbass
Ukraine has increasingly been portrayed by foreign policy experts and analysts as the frontline in the fight to uphold and strengthen democracy — an issue President Joe Biden has repeatedly emphasized since becoming president.