Blinken says Russia could move on Ukraine on ‘short order’, warns of sanctions

RIGA: US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin could quickly order an invasion of Ukraine if he had a pretext for doing so but that Nato allies stand ready to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy if that happens.
Tensions over a Russian troop buildup along the border of Ukraine have been a focus of Blinken’s Europe trip and topped the agenda of his meeting on Wednesday with Nato counterparts in Latvia. Ukraine’s government is seeking to align with Nato and West.
“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that his is putting in place the capacity to do so on short order should he so decide,” Blinken said. “We must prepare for all contingencies.” “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,” he said. Blinken said the US has “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past”. He gave no details on what kind of “high-impact” sanctions were under consideration if Russia did invade Ukraine.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would seek Western guarantees precluding any further Nato expansion. Speaking at a Kremlin event, he emphasised that Russia will seek “reliable and long-term security guarantees”. “In a dialogue with the US and its allies, we’ll insist on working out specific deals that would exclude any further Nato moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory.”

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