By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The US continued on Friday to staunchly back Ukraine as Russia amasses forces on its border in what the West fears is a precursor to a potential military invasion.
Speaking by telephone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Secretary of State Antony Blinken "reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression," spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Blinken "discussed potential U.S. and Allied responses to Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s borders and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia. The Secretary stressed there will be 'no conversations about Ukraine without Ukraine,'" he added.
The US and its European allies have warned of massive consequences should Russia renew hostilities against Ukraine and invade the eastern European country. Moscow has continued to amass its forces on its border with Ukraine, but has denied it is preparing for an invasion.
Blinken on Thursday warned ahead of pivotal talks with Russia that there will be no progress with Russia so long as Moscow continues to hold a "gun pointed to Ukraine's head."
US and Russian delegations led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet in Geneva beginning on Jan. 9 followed by the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council for the first time since 2014 on Jan. 12.
Russia seized and occupied the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and remains the de facto authority there. Moscow also that year began to support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained over the past eight years.