KYIV (Reuters) – Karen Donfried, the United States assistant secretary of state, met top Ukrainian officials on Tuesday to offer support in the face of a build-up of Russian troops near the border.
The U.S. Embassy said she had reinforced the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and discussed a path toward diplomatic progress.
The State Department said earlier that Donfried would visit Kyiv and Moscow to meet senior officials to discuss the Russian military build-up.
Ukraine accuses Russia of massing around 100,000 troops in preparation for a possible military offensive, raising fears that a simmering conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region could erupt into open war between the neighbours.
“Our aim is to support our Ukrainian colleagues as we work to de-escalate tensions due to Russia’s build-up,” Donfried said in a statement.
She dismissed as “pure disinformation” the suggestion that the United States is pushing Ukraine to make concessions in negotiations with Russia.
“The truth is that we are united with Ukraine, our NATO allies, and partners around the world in our efforts to pursue diplomacy and de-escalate a dangerous situation – but such efforts are not a concession,” she said.
Russia denies planning any attack but accuses Ukraine and the United States of destabilising behaviour, and has sought security guarantees against NATO’s eastward expansion.
But U.S. President Joe Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Kyiv’s bid to join the NATO military alliance was in its own hands.
Biden and Zelenskiy had a call two days after Biden held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to defuse a crisis over Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.
Ukraine’s ties with Russia collapsed in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow-backed forces seized territory in eastern Ukraine that Kyiv wants back. Kyiv says some 15,000 people have been killed in fighting since then.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alison Williams and Giles Elgood)