The US Secretary of State has poured cold water on the hope of a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, saying there was no sign that Vladimir Putin was “ready to stop” Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
Antony Blinken downplayed expectations that the warring states would be able to reach an agreement that would get Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, as he promised that Washington would investigate “war crimes” committed by the Russian military .
“From where I sit, diplomacy obviously requires both sides to engage in good faith in order to de-escalate,” Blinken said during a news conference at the State Department in Washington on Thursday.
“The actions that we see Russia commit every single day, virtually every minute of every day, are in stark contrast to any serious diplomatic effort to end war,he added.
In a sharp assessment of Russia’s intentions a month into the conflict, Blinken explained what he thought Putin’s next step could be, including the use of Chemical weaponsdeployment of pro-Russian mercenaries and kidnapping of local officials to be replaced by pro-Russian puppet leaders.
“We have a strong sense of what Russia could do next,” Blinken said, pointing out that the United States was right in its assessment that Putin intended to invade. “We believe that Moscow may be setting the stage for using a chemical weapon and then wrongly blaming Ukraine for justifying the escalation of its attacks.”
He also attacked Moscow for its increasingly gruesome attacks on civilian targets in the country, including a hospital, schools and a theater in the port city of Mariupol, which served as a refuge for many families.
Blinken’s comments came the day after US President Joe Biden branded Putin as one “war criminal” for the first time.
“Intentionally attacking civilians is a war crime. After all the devastation in the last few weeks, I have a hard time concluding that the Russians are doing anything else,” Blinken said.
He added: “Our experts are in the process of documenting and evaluating potential war crimes committed in Ukraine. We will ensure that our results help international efforts to investigate war crimes and hold those responsible accountable.”
Blinken spoke a day after Biden announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems, anti-tank weapons and armed drones to help the country avert the Russian attack.
Biden plans to travel to Brussels at the end of next week to further coordinate the West’s response to the war, after warning that it could end up being a “long and difficult battle”.
On Friday, Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the war in Ukraine, following escalating concerns in Washington that Beijing is on Moscow’s side in the conflict.
“We believe that China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it claims to support,” Blinken said.
“Instead, it seems that China is moving in the opposite direction by refusing to condemn this aggression, while seeking to portray itself as a neutral judge. And we are concerned that they are considering helping Russia directly with military equipment to use in Ukraine. “
China’s foreign ministry said an official met with Andrey Denisov, Russia’s ambassador to Beijing, on Thursday to discuss “bilateral counter-terrorism and security cooperation”.
Blinken added that in his call with Xi “Biden” makes it clear that China will take responsibility for any action it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs “.
Blinken’s words came after Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, continued to press the West to further strengthen military support for the country, while at the same time imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion.
After speaking to members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, Zelensky spoke with German lawmakers Thursday, delivering a excoratory attacks on its leaders to establish good economic relations with Putin over Europe’s security.
“We have seen how many ties your companies have to Russia with a country that just uses you and other countries to finance its war,” Zelensky said in a virtual speech to the Bundestag.
Further reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong