US's Blinken visits Ukraine in show of support against Russia
Iran Press TV
Thursday, 06 May 2021 10:30 AM
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has traveled to Ukraine in a show of support for the Ukrainian government against Russia.
Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday and reaffirmed Washington's commitment to supporting Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Washington will "work with you and continue to strengthen your own democracy, building institutions, advancing your reforms against corruption," he said.
The one-day visit â€” the first by a senior US official under President Joe Biden â€” came after Ukraine last month accused Russia of amassing 100,000 troops on their shared border and claimed that ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine were systematically violating a ceasefire.
Biden has formerly promised "unwavering support" for Kiev "in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression."
The Kremlin said at the time that the Russian troop and military hardware movements near the border with Ukraine were aimed at ensuring Moscow's own security and posed no threat to anyone.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that the deployments were in response to the increased activity of NATO and individual countries near Russian borders.
Meanwhile, Blinken is due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later in the day to reportedly underscore the need for greater reforms and fighting corruption.
He is expected to raise with Zelensky the issue of the dismissal of Andriy Kobolyev, the head of state energy company Naftogaz, who had held that position since 2014.
The US State Department had already criticized Ukraine for removing him, saying the shake-up showed "disregard for fair and transparent corporate governance practices."
The top US official will also join Metropolitan Yepifaniy, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in laying flowers at a memorial for soldiers killed while fighting ethnic Russians in the eastern Donbass region.
Blinken's visit to Kiev comes even as the Biden administration is seeking to resolve tensions with Moscow ahead of a potential summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Blinken arrived late Thursday from the British capital, London, where he joined foreign ministers from the Group of Seven in condemning Russia's "irresponsible and destabilizing behavior" in Ukraine.
Kiev and Moscow have traded blame in recent months for a spike in violence in the Russian-speaking Donbass, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces have been fighting since 2014 .
The armed conflict began when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected, pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration. The majority of the people in eastern Ukraine, mostly ethnic Russians, refused to endorse the new administration.
The new government then began a crackdown on the ethnic Russians in the east, who in turn took up arms and turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk â€” collectively known as the Donbass â€” into self-proclaimed republics.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow denies the allegations.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev further deteriorated when the then-Ukrainian territory of Crimea voted to fall under Russian sovereignty in a referendum in 2014. More than 90 percent of the participants in the referendum voted in favor of unification.
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