U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Ukraine next week

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ukraine next week, CBS News reported on Thursday, with tensions high between Ukraine and Russia.

CBS News said Blinken confirmed the trip in an interview to be broadcast on its “60 Minutes” program on Sunday.

Moscow alarmed Kyiv and Western capitals in April by building up forces along the border with Ukraine, though last week it ordered a withdrawal of some troops.

“There are more forces amassed on the border with Ukraine than any time since 2014, when Russia actually invaded,” Blinken said in an excerpt of the interview released by CBS.

U.S. President Joe Biden has communicated his concerns about Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Russia has said its troop build-up near the border with Ukraine was part of drills in response to what it called threatening behavior by NATO.

“I can’t tell you that we know Mr. Putin’s intentions. There are any number of things that he could do or choose not to do,” Blinken said on CBS.

“What we have seen in the last few days is apparently a decision to pull back some of those forces and we’ve seen some of them in fact start to pull back,” he said.

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel was moving into the Black Sea to work with NATO allies and partners in the region, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been dire since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

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