The head of the American diplomacy arrived in Kiev on Wednesday, the first stage of a European tour devoted to the Russian-Western crisis around Ukraine, threatened with a military offensive from the Kremlin amid diplomatic efforts that are running out of steam. .
Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks. While denying wanting to go on the attack, she affirms that a de-escalation requires guarantees for her security, in particular the commitment never to enlarge NATO and to no longer support Ukraine.
Arrived early in the morning on a frozen tarmac, Antony Blinken is expected at the American embassy in Kiev before being received by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky then the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba.
After a round of talks with Russia last week, Russians and Westerners, Americans in the lead, have noted the gulf separating them, but the American diplomat still hopes to be able to find a diplomatic way out, even if the United States is now ringing the bell. all-out alarm against Russia.
“We are at a stage where Russia can launch an attack in Ukraine at any time,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, speaking of an “extremely dangerous situation” shortly before takeoff. ‘Antony Blinken for Europe.
– sanctions and sabotage –
After his first stop on Wednesday in Kiev, the head of American diplomacy is expected in Berlin on Thursday for discussions with Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
Finally, on Friday, Antony Blinken is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, to try to renew the dialogue, despite Washington’s ever more alarmist tone.
Latest episode: the White House is concerned about the possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus, a neighboring country of Ukraine which hosts major military maneuvers with Russia.
If Moscow takes action in Ukraine, “no option is excluded” on the American side, warned Jen Psaki, questioned both on the very strategic Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline leading to Germany, and on an exclusion of Russia from “Swift”, an essential system of international banking exchanges.
Threats of new Western sanctions have been brushed aside by the Kremlin.
At the end of last week, Washington had already accused Moscow of having sent agents to Ukraine to carry out “sabotage” operations in order to create a “pretext” for an invasion.
The heads of Canadian and German diplomacy, who preceded Mr. Blinken to Kiev, each in turn showed their support for Ukraine against the Russians.
London, for its part, announced the shipment of weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, to Ukraine, which is rightly complaining about the lack of eagerness of the West to strengthen their military aid.
– Russian requirements –
Russia on Tuesday called for “concrete” answers to its demands before any new talks on Ukraine.
In addition to a treaty banning any enlargement of NATO, in particular to Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet republic, Moscow is demanding that the Americans and their allies give up organizing military maneuvers and deployments in Eastern Europe.
Negotiations last week in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna failed to make any progress, with Moscow deeming its demands non-negotiable and the West describing them as unacceptable.
Russia denies any belligerent ambition in Ukraine, says it is threatened by the strengthening of NATO in the region since the fall of the USSR and assures that its thousands of soldiers on the Ukrainian border do not constitute a threat.
In response to a pro-Western revolution in Ukraine, Russia already annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and is widely seen as the military sponsor of pro-Russian separatists in war-torn eastern Ukraine. for nearly eight years.