A war would have terrible and devastating consequences for Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned amid escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine.
"It would have consequences, of course, for Russia, including the very severe consequences that would be imposed by many countries," he said in an interview with German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, published late on Saturday.
Blinken said the US and its allies would not only impose economic sanctions on Russia but also reinforce Ukraine's defense if Moscow launches military action against its neighbor.
"We've been very clear that there will be a swift and united response when it comes, for example, to sanctions. There will be a swift and united response when it comes to, depending on the exact situation, reinforcing further Ukraine's defense," he said.
Blinken also underlined that the allies would also take additional steps to reinforce NATO and its eastern flank in the case of a Russian invasion.
In related news, Blinken told reporters during the Munich Security Conference that the US is still seeking a diplomatic solution and that he's planning to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov next week.
"We do have a planned meeting on the (Feb.) 24th, next week in Europe, but as I said to Foreign Minister Lavrov in the note I wrote back to him, that assumes that Russia does not invade Ukraine in the meantime," he said.
Tensions have risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine in recent days, with reports of a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine on Saturday denied media reports that Ukrainian shells have fallen on Russia's territory in the southern Rostov region.
"We did not fire, these are not our shells. The last thing we are interested in is to further escalate the situation," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a side event at the Munich Security Conference.
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told German public broadcaster ARD that the latest developments indicate Russia could be preparing a pretext for a "full scale" attack on Ukraine.
Western countries have accused Russia of amassing nearly 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, prompting fears that it could be planning a military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and instead accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.