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Blinken warns Russia there will be 'serious consequences' if they invade Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia against taking any 'escalatory actions' with Ukraine, threatening 'serious consequences' for doing so. 

His remarks, made at a joint press conference with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga, come amid growing concerns Russia could mount another invasion of Ukraine as they build up forces along the border. 

Concerns about the Russian buildup will be discussed at meetings of NATO ministers over Tuesday and Wednesday. 

'Its increasingly belligerent rhetoric, its recent buildup of forces. Its unusual troop movements along Ukraine's border,' Blinken said, adding 'I'll have a lot more to say about that tomorrow after I've had a chance to consult with our allies in the NATO meetings that started this afternoon.' 

He continued: 'For now, let me just reiterate that any escalatory actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States as they would to Latvia and any renewed aggression can trigger serious consequences.' 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Moscow's buildup on the border 'unprovoked and unexplained.' 

'Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia,' she said. 

Vladimir Putin has sent some 94,000 troops to the Ukrainian frontier and the White House has warned Europe to brace for an invasion that would dwarf the 2014 annexation of the Crimea.

Putin vowed to protect Russia's 'red lines' but downplayed there was any threat of invasion, saying that similar accusations were made earlier this year

A map shared with Military Times earlier this month and replicated above shows how Ukrainian intelligence is bracing for a bloody and ferocious invasion that could see swathes of Ukraine captured in an assault which would dwarf the annexation of the Crimea in 2014

Russian troops board landing vessels after drills in Crimea

This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies taken on November 1, 2021 shows Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers and support equipment amid the presence of a large ground forces deployment on the northern edge of the town of Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast, Russia

Putin vowed to protect Russia's 'red lines' but downplayed there was any threat of invasion, saying that similar accusations were made earlier this year.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that his country's intelligence service had uncovered plans for a Russia-backed coup d'etat. Russia denied the allegation and rejected the assertion that it is planning to invade Ukraine. 

The new buildup follows a similar surge in the spring, when Russia gathered around 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders but later announced a drawdown.

Putin said Moscow was concerned by Western moves to conduct large-scale previously unannounced military drills near Russia's borders, singling out US-led exercises in the Black Sea.

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lobbed a series of new accusations against Kiev and said Russia reserved the right to respond if its security was threatened.

'We simply don't have the right to exclude that the Kiev regime may embark on a military adventure. This all creates a direct threat to Russia's security,' Lavrov told reporters, speaking alongside his Brazilian counterpart Carlos Franca.

'If the West is unable to contain Ukraine, but, on the contrary, will incite it, then of course, we will take all the necessary steps to ensure our reliable security.'

A plane performs a flight during military drills of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces in Zhytomyr Region, Ukraine November 21, 2021

A Russian-backed separatist holds a machine gun inside a trench along the frontline outside the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier along with a tank taking part in drills in Kherson region, Ukraine, November 17, 2021

Lavrov said Ukrainian military manoeuvres and use of drones in the country's east, held by pro-Russian separatists, posed a threat to Russia, and it was ready to respond if needed.

'We simply cannot rule out the possibility that Kyiv will set out on a military adventure,' he told a news conference in Moscow.

'President Putin stressed that we do not need conflict but if the West cannot hold back Ukraine - and on the contrary encourages it - of course we will take all the necessary steps to ensure our security.'

Last week Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia was sending 'very dangerous' signals with troop movements on the border, warning that his military was ready to push back any offensive.

Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames NATO for fuelling tensions.

The conflict in the east has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014.