June 2, 2023

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Blinken says Russia’s ‘gamebook’ for invasion of Ukraine is moving forward, but war can still be avoided

Blinken says Russia's 'gamebook' for invasion of Ukraine is moving forward, but war can still be avoided

“As we described it, it appears that whatever led to the actual invasion is happening,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported more than 100 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and said the bombing continued until Sunday, while Russian forces remained in Belarus to continue military exercises that were supposed to end.

Blinken told CNN’s Dana Bash he was concerned that the extension of the exercises was another sign that Russia was paving the way for an invasion, following this week’s “false flag” operations and the mobilization of more than 150,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.

“They are now justifying the continuation of the ‘exercises’ which they said will now end, the continuation of those unquoted exercises on the situation in eastern Ukraine indefinitely – a situation they have created by continuing to escalate tensions,” Blinkin said.

However, Blinken said the United States will continue to try to find a last diplomatic path. he said that President Joe Biden He is willing to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin “at any time and in any way” if it helps prevent war, saying the Biden administration will continue to take whatever steps it can to try to persuade Moscow not to invade Ukraine.

“We think President Putin made the decision, but until the tanks really rolled in, the planes flew, we’ll take every opportunity and every minute to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from moving forward on this.” He said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky He was in Germany on Saturday, where he met Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference. Zelensky said he was urging the United States and Europe not to wait for sanctions against Russia, arguing that they would not help Ukraine if they were invoked only after the invasion had already begun.

Blinken said on Sunday that the United States did not want to reveal the sanctions early because that would “allow Russia to try to plot against them.”

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“The sanctions are primarily intended to try to deter Russia from going to war,” he said. “Once you fire them, that deterrent is gone and until the last minute, as long as we can try to have a deterrent effect on this, we’ll try to do that.”

If Putin went ahead with the invasion, Blinken said, the US and NATO were clear that they would “face him and Russia very hard.”

Asked if Putin might be cheating, Blinken said, “There’s always a chance, but every indication we’ve seen, every move he’s taken has followed the play we set for the world to see before the United States. The UN Security Council, he’s following the scenario almost literally.”

“Everything we’re seeing indicates that this is very dangerous, that we are on the verge of an invasion,” he added.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Bach in a separate interview that Putin “behaved in an unpredictable way.”

“It is very difficult to identify and define the other person in reality, deep down. But so far, I can say that he behaved in a way that is very difficult to predict but it might also be intentional, that is to act in this way, because that brings confusion to the ocean,” Niinisto said. .

Blinken is scheduled to meet later this week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Europe, in what could be another round of weeks-long diplomatic talks as Russian troops continue to build up on the Ukrainian border. But Blinken said the meeting would be called off in the event of an invasion.

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“It all depends on what Russia will do in the coming days,” he said. “If you don’t invade, I’ll be there.”

CNN’s Manviena Suri contributed to this report.