The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell will on Tuesday start a visit to Ukraine as tensions with Russia over its military build-up near the border remain high.
The visit will see Borrell first travel to east Ukraine and the line of contact where clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists continue to take place, nearly seven years after the conflict first erupted.
He will be accompanied by Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba before travelling to capital Kyiv to meet the country’s authorities.
“His first foreign trip of this year underscores EU’s strong support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity at a time when the country is confronted with Russian military build-up and hybrid actions,” a statement from the EU Commission released on Monday read.
The visit comes less than a week before US and Russian officials meet in Geneva with the tensions along the border high on the agenda. NATO and Russia talks are also scheduled to take place on January 10.
About 100,000 Russian troops and military equipment are amassed along the border with US intelligence warning last month that Moscow may be preparing an invasion.
The Kremlin has denied this but demanded that a Ukrainian membership of NATO be ruled out and that the alliance removes any offensive weaponry from countries in the region.
US President Joe Biden assured his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a telephone conversation on Sunday that “the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”
Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, meanwhile discussed the issue on Monday with foreign ministers from the Bucharest Nine — Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
“The Secretary and Foreign Ministers discussed Russia’s destabilising military buildup along Ukraine;s border; the need for a united, ready, and resolute NATO stance for the collective defense of Allies; and transatlantic cooperation on issues of concern,” a readout of the call stated.