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Blinken in Kyiv to back Ukraine as Putin stares down West

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs Andrews Air Force Base for Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Kyiv Wednesday for crisis talks with Ukraine’s leaders, as diplomatic efforts to dissuade Russia from attacking its pro-Western neighbour falter.

After talks last week failed to ease fears, the White House warned Tuesday that Russia was ready to attack Ukraine at “any point”.

Hoping to show robust support ahead of the talks, the top US diplomat is making a one-day visit to Kyiv in a show of support for Ukraine.

Blinken heads Thursday to Berlin for four-way talks with Britain, France and Germany to seek Western unity.

“No option is off the table,” she said, warning of an “extremely dangerous situation”.

Moscow has repeatedly denied that an invasion is planned.

In a call between the US and Russian top diplomats ahead of Blinken’s trip, the Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov had called on Blinken “not to replicate speculation about the allegedly impending ‘Russian aggression'”.

And a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blinken’s goal was to see “if there is a diplomatic off-ramp” and “common ground” where Russia can be persuaded to pull back from Ukraine.

However, in a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday, Lavrov said there would be no further negotiations until the West responds to its demands for sweeping security guarantees.

Washington has rejected the demands.

The US official said it was possible that Russia is not interested in a diplomatic solution.

Washington meanwhile warned that draft constitutional reforms in Belarus could lead to the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in the country.

Kyiv has been battling a pro-Moscow insurgency in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

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