Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on Wednesday at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo courtesy U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken/Twitter
Jan. 19 (UPI) -- During his visit to Ukraine on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured the Eastern European country that it has support from the United States and urged Western nations to unite against Russian aggression.
Blinken made the remarks to staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev.
The top U.S. diplomat is on a three-day tour that will take him to Ukraine and Germany -- and aims to de-escalate tensions in the region related to Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine's eastern border and Moscow's opposition to Ukraine potentially joining NATO.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, which was formerly part of the old Soviet Union.
"We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice," Blinken said in his remarks, according to a transcript published by the State Department.
"And that gives [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin the capacity also on very short notice to take further aggressive action against Ukraine. And that, of course, has gotten not only our attention but it's gotten the attention of virtually all of our allies and partners, and not just in Europe, even beyond."
Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky on Wednesday and reiterated U.S. support, and also said President Joe Biden's administration will push for a diplomatic solution.
"This is a critical time for Ukraine," Blinken added. "There is the path of diplomacy and dialogue to try to resolve whatever differences there are peacefully through diplomacy.
"[That is] clearly the preferable path, clearly the most responsible path and the one that we would prefer, but there is also the path if Russia chooses to renew aggression, of conflict, confrontation and consequences for Russia."
Blinken is expected to speak at some point with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during the trip.