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Blinken to meet with Russian and Ukrainian counterparts

Blinken to meet with Russian and Ukrainian counterparts
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Foreign Affairs Ministers in Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday. Latvia is hosting a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting for the first time. Photo by Toms Kalnins/EPA-EFE

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday as tensions between the countries reached a new high.

The officials are expected to meet at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Stockholm.

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Blinken and Ukrainian officials have complained about the increase of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. Blinken said Russia did the same, along with increasing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric on social media, before forcibly taking Crimea in 2014.

"The United States remains unwavering in our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and committed to our security partnership with Ukraine," Blinken said at the NATO Ministerial meeting in Latvia.

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"And just as we've been clear with Moscow, we're also urging Ukraine to continue to exercise restraint. Because again, the Russian playbook is to claim provocation for something that they were planning to do all along."

Blinken warned the United States would hit Russia with economic sanctions if it invaded or took other actions to destabilize Ukraine.

"Now, we don't know whether President [Vladimir] Putin has made the decision to invade," Blinken said. "We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so on short order should he so decide.

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"So despite uncertainty about intentions and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course. The United States has been engaging intensively with allies and partners on this issue, and directly with President Putin."

He said President Joe Biden talked about the tensions in Ukraine with Britain, France, and Germany at the G20 meeting in Rome a few weeks ago.

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