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Blinken signals U.S. support for Ukraine with border meeting

Randy Mancini 24 Mar 5
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken visits Poland
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with members of the Ukrainian Civil Society, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Rzeszow, Poland March 5, 2022. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS

March 5, 2022

By Simon Lewis

POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met on Ukraine’s border with Poland on Saturday to discuss Western efforts to support Ukraine and isolate Russia in hopes of bringing the 10-day war to an end.

Amid tight security, Blinken and Kuleba held talks in a tent at a border crossing, where refugees, mostly women and children, were also crossing with their belongings in rolling luggage and backpacks.

The two men walked on both sides of a painted line that appeared to mark the end of Polish territory.

“The entire world stands with Ukraine, just as I am standing here in Ukraine with my friend, my colleague,” Blinken said.

Kuleba added: “I hope the people of Ukraine will be able to see this as a clear manifestation that we have friends who literally stand by us.”

The two discussed the provision of weapons to Ukraine and the campaign to isolate Russia internationally and damage its economy with sanctions, Kuleba said.

Kuleba said Ukraine would win its war with Russia eventually, but Ukraine’s international supporters needed to provide more help to end the conflict sooner.

Ukraine especially needs fighter jets and air defense systems, he said, adding that Stinger anti-aircraft weapons provided by Western nations were helping. Ukrainian forces downed three Russian aircraft on Saturday, he said.

“If they continue to provide us with necessary weapons, the price will be lower. This will save many lives, many houses…,” he said.

Kuleba added that he saw no progress in talks with Russia on a ceasefire being held on Ukraine’s border with Belarus, but “we have to continue talking” to end the war. A third round is scheduled for Monday.

PRAISE FOR POLAND

Blinken earlier met Poland’s prime minister and foreign minister and visited a center hosting some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have crossed into Poland since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24.

Blinken praised Poland, a NATO member, for its response to Russia’s actions. Poland is hosting roughly 10,000 U.S. troops, with more than half arriving in recent weeks.

The number of refugees could rise to 1.5 million by the end of the weekend from a current 1.3 million, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said on Saturday.

Blinken arrived in Poland from Brussels, where he met foreign ministers from the NATO alliance, the G7 grouping and the European Union on Friday to discuss the West’s efforts to deter Russia through a programme of harsh sanctions.

NATO members are providing military aid to Ukraine, much of it passing through Poland. But it has declined Ukrainian demands to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, saying this could provoke a much broader and even more dangerous conflict.

Russia describes its actions as “a special military operation”, not an invasion, and says its aim is to disarm Ukraine, counter what it views as NATO aggression and capture Ukrainian leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)