Amid fears Russia may invade Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says imposing sanctions now would remove the deterrence effect.

A Russian armoured vehicle drives off a railway platform after arrival in Belarus

A Russian armoured vehicle drives off a railway platform after arrival in Belarus.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rebuffed calls to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia, saying that doing so would undercut the West’s ability to deter potential Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Russia’s massing of troops near its border with Ukraine has sparked Western concerns that it may invade. If Russia does make an incursion, the West has threatened sanctions with profound economic effects. Toscow has said it has no plans to invade.

“When it comes to sanctions, the purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression. And so if they are triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect,” Blinken told CNN in an interview on Sunday.

Blinken said if a “single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive” manner, that would trigger a significant response.

US Secretary of State Antony BlinkenUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken [File: Alex Brandon/Pool/Reuters]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Washington Post last week he supported imposing sanctions now, a view endorsed by Republican lawmakers on Sunday.

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“We need to act now. When it comes to pushing back against Russia, we need to show strength and not be in a position of … appeasement,” Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC News.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, an ally of US President Joe Biden, argued for passing bipartisan US legislation to “show resolve and determination and apply some sanctions now”, but said it was best to keep the strongest sanctions in reserve.

“The very strongest sanctions, the sorts of sanctions that we use to bring Iran to the table, is something that we should hold out as a deterrent,” he told ABC News.

Asked if US hands were tied over Ukraine because of a need for Russian support in talks on reining in Iran’s nuclear programme, Blinken told CBS News: “Not in the least.”

On Saturday, the first shipment of the US’s $200m security support package for Ukraine arrived in Kyiv, the US embassy said

Russia rejects UK accusations

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian legislator Yevheniy Murayev – who outright refuted the claims.

“This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded,” Murayev said on a video call.

He denied having any contact with Russian intelligence officers and dismissed the idea that he could be in league with the Kremlin as “stupid”, given he was placed under Russian sanctions in 2018.

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in KyivMembers of Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces, volunteer military units of the armed forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small party that has no seats in parliament.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, said the UK claims were “aimed at trying to provoke tensions and escalate the situation with Kyiv”.

“The Kremlin has said that these accusations are absolutely false and that their main goal at spreading this disinformation, as they call it, is to show yet again that these NATO countries are headed by ‘Anglo-Saxons’, who are trying to incite further tensions and increase the disputes between this country and Ukraine,” she added.

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