Antony Blinken Warns 'Reckless and Aggressive' Russia Over Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated Washington, D.C.'s backing for Kyiv in the face of Russian aggression in the first visit to Ukraine by a senior official from President Joe Biden's administration.

In the one-day visit on Thursday, Blinken spoke with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The trip sends a warning to Moscow and a message of support to Ukraine, amid alarm at the biggest buildup of Russian troops by its border since Moscow seized Crimea in 2014.

The visit also comes as the White House looks to move on from the controversy of the previous administration's relationship with Ukraine, during which ex-President Donald Trump was accused of withholding aid to press Zelensky to dig up dirt on Biden.

In a press conference with Zelensky, Blinken said that discussions between the pair had focused on "the threat Russia continues to pose to Ukraine. We have been watching this very, very closely and very, very carefully."

Russia announced last month that it would withdraw troops from its border with Ukraine.

Blinken said on Thursday that "significant forces remain there," and that the U.S. was "monitoring the situation very, very closely."

Regardless of Russia's withdrawal, Blinken added: "One thing that is tragically constant, that is there are casualties every day along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine."

The continued Russian military presence by the border is in the tens of thousands according to some estimates as Moscow continues to closely eye the U.S.-led military exercises in Europe and Africa called DEFENDER Europe 2021.

With Zelensky sitting opposite him, Blinken said in the press conference: "I can tell you Mr President, we stand strongly with you, partners do as well.

"We look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions."

Ahead of the visit, the State Department said in a statement that since 2014, the United States has provided Ukraine more than $4.6 billion in total assistance.

Earlier, Blinken had told a BBC radio interview that the U.S. was "less focused on President Putin or any one individual and more focused on Russia's actions."

Citing the SolarWinds hack, election interference and the poisoning and jailing of the opposition politician Alexei Navalny, Blinken told the Today program: "If Russia acts recklessly or aggressively...then we will respond."

Relations between Washington, D.C. and Moscow may be at a historic low, but much is hoped to be achieved in a proposed summit between Biden and his Russian counterpart which is being slated for June.

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. state department, the Ukrainian foreign ministry and the Russian foreign ministry for comment.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures while speaking to Ukrainian Foreign Minister during their meeting in Kiev on May 6, 2021. He reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine saying it faced a threat from Russia. Efrem Lukatsky/Getty Images