WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration on Wednesday expressed concern over what it called the escalation of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telephoned his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts. Blinken expressed the administration’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, the department said. State Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US government was aware of the Ukrainian Army’s reports of Russian troop movements on the eastern border, but he gave no details.
Kirby said the Russian escalation included violations of a July 2020 ceasefire, brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which resulted in the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers in the east. the country on March 26 and the injury of two others. The Ukrainian military said the four men were killed in a mortar attack blamed on Russian troops. Russia denies having a military presence in the region. The State Department said Blinken had expressed condolences for the losses.
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The OSCE civilian special observation mission to Ukraine has reported hundreds of ceasefire violations in recent days, including 493 on March 26 in the Donetsk region, mostly small arms fire.
“Russia’s destabilizing actions are undermining the de-escalation of tensions that had been achieved through an agreement brokered by the OSCE in July last year,” Kirby said. “In addition, we are aware of Ukrainian military reports regarding Russian troop movements at the borders of Ukraine.”
Kirby said Washington was discussing these concerns with NATO allies, and the State Department said it “will also contact Russia to seek an explanation of these developments.” Kirby noted that President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart on Monday to express U.S. support.
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Milley’s office announced his appeals to his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts but did not provide any details. Kirby said it was safe to assume Milley raised US concerns about escalating tensions and ceasefire violations.
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