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Feb 16, 2022

Massive consequences if Russia goes against Ukraine: Blinken tells ICTV

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FA Correspondent
File photo of Antony Blinken. Image Credit AFP
File photo of Antony Blinken. Image Credit AFP

US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken was talking with Natalya Lutsenko of ICTV focusing situation on the hot issue of Ukraine recently. According to the US Department of States’ press release, following are the excerpts:

Question: All reports in the American media that intelligence is public in – the exact date of the attack, which is convinced that Russia will attack Ukraine day by day.  Can we consider that as some specific actions as not giving Putin any room for a maneuver – for a maneuver?  Or is just – is it just a coincidence?

Secretary Blinken:  We’ve done everything we can to share whatever information we receive, get access to, share it with – of course, with our Ukrainian partners as well as with other allies and partners, just to make sure that everyone is on notice about what could happen.  We have not seen a definitive decision by President Putin, but we do know that he’s put in place the capacity to act on very, very short notice.  And so as we’ve said, if he chooses the path of renewed aggression against Ukraine, it could happen at any time and it’s important that people understand that even as we work overtime through diplomacy to try to prevent Russia from renewing its aggression.

Q:  It just feels like with this revealing the information, you’re always leaving Putin behind because when you’re saying that the actions will be on the 15th of February, it feels like it’s not going to be like that because everybody knows that already.

Secretary:  Well, it’s important to, I think, again, put Russia on notice that we see what it’s planning and we see what it might do, and to share that information with our partners and to share it, as necessary, with the world.

Q:  Thank you.  So today Russian Duma ask Putin to recognize Ukrainian occupied region or bloc as independent.  So Putin should – could decide, but he didn’t say anything directly, particularly.  Can he use this decision – his decision as a blackmail, perhaps?

Secretary:  Well, this effort is totally inconsistent with the Minsk Agreements.  It’s in contradiction of the Minsk Agreements.  And so if Russia is serious about implementing Minsk, it has to reject this effort, and it’s certainly something that we don’t recognize and don’t accept.

Q:  Is there any cautious optimism that Russia said again it’s ready for dialogue?  Today I’ve heard that thought in – from Stoltenberg.

Secretary:  It’s not a question, for me at least, of being optimistic or pessimistic.  It’s a question of focusing on the facts, on what we see, and on what Russia is doing.  Yes, it said some more positive things about diplomacy in recent days, but I think your foreign minister, Foreign Minister Kuleba, had it exactly right when he said we should be less focused on what Russia says and more focused on what it does.  We have yet to see any removal of forces surrounding Ukraine, any pullback, any end to the so-called exercises that Russia has claimed it’s engaged in.  That’s what we’re focused on.  And if we see that, that would be positive, and I think that would create a better environment, a better atmosphere for pursuing diplomacy.

But we’re prepared either way.  If Russia chooses the path of diplomacy, we’re fully prepared to engage.  At the same time, if they choose the path of aggression, we’re prepared to respond to that too.

Q:  Am I correct the United States intelligence don’t see any withdrawal from Ukrainian border?

Secretary:  That’s correct.  We have yet to see any pullback, any withdrawal of Russian forces from around Ukraine’s borders.  We’re watching that very carefully, and again, it’s very important to look at what Russia actually does, not what it says it’s doing.

Q:  And the last question that I couldn’t ask you that – could not now ask you about the American embassy in Ukraine.  Don’t you think there is a chance that by abandoning the embassy it might send a signal that Russia can now start their attack?

Secretary:  We’ve been very clear that if Russia engages in renewed aggression against Ukraine, there will be massive consequences, and that’s come from not just us, but from virtually all of our partners in the – in Europe, NATO, the European Union, the G7, the world’s largest democratic economies.  So that’s been very clear.  I think President Putin knows that if he makes the terrible mistake of renewing aggression, that’s what he’ll face.  And at the same time, we are – we continue to work to support Ukraine’s defenses.  We’ve provided over the last year well more than $600 million in 2021, more than at any previous year.  But we also want to make sure that we’re supporting your economy.  Just yesterday we announced a sovereign loan guarantee of a billion dollars in support of the economy.

When it comes to the embassy, look, I have a unique responsibility as Secretary of State, which is to look out for the safety and well-being of the people who work for me, and that’s really unique to me.  So we did make the decision to temporarily relocate our diplomatic functions from Kyiv to Lviv out of an abundance of precaution.  It’s the prudent thing to do because, again, my personal responsibility is to the safety and security of our people.  But they continue to work directly with their counterparts in the Ukrainian Government.  They continue to support the very – the different programs we have in support of Ukraine.  And of course, I’m on the phone almost every day with Dmytro Kuleba; others are on the phone with President Zelenskyy and other senior officials.

And so our support, our engagement, our work with the Ukrainian Government remains very, very strong.

Q:  Is there any expiry date for that removal – removing the embassy?

Secretary:  We’ll be focused on the facts.  We’ll be focused on what we see.  And again, unfortunately, we haven’t seen any pullback of Russian forces, but if it’s clear that Russia is truly engaged on a diplomatic path and the military threat goes away, of course, that changes the situation.  But that’s what we’re focused on.