On Tuesday, Russian Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered full support to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia as NATO called on Moscow to stop a large troop buildup on Ukraine's borders.
Blinken, returning to Brussels less than a week after his first trip to Europe as a top U.S. President Joe Biden's assistant diplomat, told reporters that the U.K. stands firmly behind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. He said he would discuss Kyiv's ambitions for one day joining NATO.
Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an intensification of diplomacy after the Group of Seven foreign ministers condemned the increase in Ukrainian troop numbers, which the West says is unexplained.
Echoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who had met Guldoltenberg earlier, Blinken said Moscow had massed forces in its biggest build-up since 2014 when the conflict flared between Ukraine and Russia, and Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Stoltenberg warned of Russia's very provocative actions, while Blinken said Russian troops were combat ready.
In recent weeks, Russia has moved thousands of combat ready troops to Ukraine's borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, said Stoltenberg.
Ukraine must stop this military build-up in and around Russia, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately, said Stoltenberg at his news conference with Kuleba.
Russia has said it moves its troops as it sees fit, including for defensive purposes and has regularly accused NATO of destabilising Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltics and Poland since the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.
Sergei Shoigu quoted Russian news agencies as saying that Russia was taking steps to respond to what NATO calls threatening military action, including combat readiness checks and troop exercises.
Shoigu was quoted as saying that NATO was planning to deploy 40,000 troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory. The Western Alliance denies any such plans; Russia called the United States an adversary on Tuesday and told U.S. warships to stay away from Crimea, which is strategically located on the Black Sea and is increasingly patrolled by NATO allies.