U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pauses while speaking in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, January 7, 2022.

Andrew Harnik | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON –  Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ukraine this week and meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The trip comes as the Biden administration works to deter Russia from a potential invasion of its neighbor.

Blinken will land in Kyiv on Wednesday where he will meet with Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The nation’s top diplomat will also meet with the employees and families at the U.S. Embassy compound there to communicate the contingency plans should Russia choose to escalate further, the State Department said Tuesday.

Ahead of the trip, Blinken spoke to his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on Tuesday and reiterated calls for Moscow to de-escalate tensions by reducing its military build-up along Ukraine’s border.

Blinken’s trip comes on the heels of multiple high-stakes discussions between U.S. and European officials and their Russian counterparts. Following those meetings, the Biden administration accused Russia of preparing a “false flag operation” to use as a prelude for an invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has denied any such preparations.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that intelligence agencies monitoring Russian cyber operations against Ukraine believe the pattern of activity could signal a ground invasion of Ukraine within the next 30 days.

The new timeline is the latest sign of how imminent the Biden administration believes a Russian attack against Ukraine could be, and how urgent its effort to negotiate a peaceful settlement has become.

A militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) observes the area at fighting positions on the line of separation from the Ukrainian armed forces near the rebel-controlled settlement of Yasne (Yasnoye) in Donetsk region, Ukraine January 14, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

For months, the Ukrainian government has warned the U.S. and European allies that Russian troops were massing along its eastern border. The buildup has evoked Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions against Moscow.

“We saw this playbook in 2014, and they are preparing this playbook again,”  national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House last week, adding that the United States is “ready either way.”

The Kremlin has previously denied that it was preparing for an invasion.

Last month, President Joe Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice amid the significant military buildup on the Ukrainian border. During the first call on Dec. 7, Biden declined to accept Putin’s “red lines” on Ukraine, including that the country would never be allowed to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization known as NATO.

During the leaders’ most recent call, on Dec. 30, Biden reiterated concerns and renewed threats that his administration would “respond decisively” alongside allies and partners if Russia invades Ukraine.

On Thursday, Blinken will travel to Berlin to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to discuss joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine. He will also raise questions about allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose sweeping consequences and severe economic costs on Russia in the wake of an invasion.



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