Tensions were rising along Ukraine’s eastern frontier as Russia moved thousands of combat troops to the border it shares with Ukraine in recent weeks. It was the largest massing of Russian troops since Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014. According to Ukraine’s government, as many as 14,000 people have been killed in the seven-year conflict.
On April 22, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the troops would be recalled in May, but as of this reporting the largest buildup of troops since 2014 remained in the area.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a recent meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reiterated that the United States “stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
This is “particularly important at a time when we’re seeing unfortunately Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine,” said Secretary Blinken.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to “end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately.”
Secretary Blinken noted NATO is discussing Ukraine’s bid to eventually join the defensive alliance. He confirmed Ukraine had undertaken “very important” steps to “strengthen its democratic institutions, to advance the rule of law, to make key economic reforms, all of which are critical to NATO’s – to the Ukraine’s future, and to its integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
In a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden confirmed his “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The President also “voiced concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” said a White House statement.
President Biden went on to reaffirm the United States’ goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.