Blinken, Ukrainian FM discuss conflict in Donbas region


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba discussed the escalated conflict in the country’s Donbas region, which Moscow and Kiev have blamed each other for.

The two diplomats spoke on the phone on Thursday during which they discussed the conflict which erupted in the volatile region on March 26 after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a tweet following the phone call, Blinken said: Pleased to speak with Dmytro Kuleba today to discuss the US unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We continue to support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.”

Also taking to the micro-blogging site, Kuleba said: “I held a productive and focused call with

Secretary Blinken as Russia continues to systemically aggravate the security situation in the east of Ukraine and in Crimea. Discussed ways of strengthening security cooperation.”

Addressing a briefing on Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington is concerned by the “recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire that led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26 and injuries to two others.

He also noted that Washington was aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s borders.

“We are discussing our concerns about that increase in tensions and ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies,” he added.

The escalated tension has prompted other intensive high-level exchanges between the US and relevant parties.

In a call with Ukrainian Minister of Defence Andriy Taran earlier in the day, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reiterated the US’ commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine’s forces to defend more effectively against Russian aggression, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.

But, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that recent movements of Russian troops within the country’s territory were aimed at safeguarding Moscow’s borders and posed no threat to others.

“Russia is taking necessary measures to ensure the security of its borders,” Peskov said, adding that Moscow is aware of NATO’s increased activities near its national borders.

The New York Times reported that the US European Command in the past week raised its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis, the highest level, in response to the build-up of Russian forces on the border.