U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit Ukraine next week to reiterate Washington’s support for the country amid Russia’s "aggression" and to push for further reforms in the former Soviet republic.
Blinken will visit Kyiv on May 5-6 after attending a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialized nations in London, the State Department said in a statement on April 30.
During his trip, the U.S. top diplomat is to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as representatives of Ukrainian civil society “to reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression."
He will also "encourage continued progress on Ukraine’s institutional reform agenda, particularly anti-corruption action, which is key to securing Ukraine’s democratic institutions, economic prosperity, and Euro-Atlantic future."
The announcement comes amid a surge in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since the beginning of this year in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
Around 30 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed over the past four months despite a cease-fire that took hold in July 2020, compared with 50 in all of last year.
A Russian troop buildup in recent weeks near Ukraine's borders and in occupied Crimea has also raised concerns of an escalation of the conflict in Kyiv and in the West.
The United States and NATO have described the buildup as the largest since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and threw its military, political, and economic support behind separatists in parts of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The United States does not know Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions, Blinken said in an excerpt of an interview to be aired on CBS News’s 60 Minutes program on May 2.
"There are any number of things that he could do or choose not to do. 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.
The Russian military claimed on April 29 that almost all its troops had now returned to their permanent bases after participating in massive drills.
The Kremlin has dismissed Western concerns as involvement in a sovereign manner.