In a significant development U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine at “very short notice”.
Blinken made the comments on his arrived in Kyiv in a diplomatic push towards defuse tensions with Russia and Ukraine.
He is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and later travel to Berlin for talks with allies before going to Geneva to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
US negotiations with Russia last week did not produce any breakthrough.
Russia has stationed thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine with Kyiv and its allies fearing could be potential preparation for a new military offensive.
Adding to these tensions, Moscow has also moved additional troops into Belarus earlier this week ahead of what Minsk said were planned joint military exercises next month.
Russia has denied plans to launch an attack on Ukraine and has pressed the United States for security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO.
Speaking to diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Blinken said he hopes that Moscow will continue to choose diplomacy over war when he meets Lavrov, and warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could give the order to attack at short notice.
“As you all know very, very well, we have been engaged in the past couple of months in an intense focus on Ukraine because of the significant buildup we’ve seen of Russian forces we’ve seen near the Ukrainian border,” said Blinken.
“We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine,” said Blinken.
“Should Russia further invade Ukraine, we will provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already in the process of providing,” said a State Department official ahead of Blinken’s arrival.
Germany has signalled that it could halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine.
“We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine,” said the official from the State Department.