KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Friday that there can be no ceasefire in the war in Ukraine unless it is part of a “just and lasting” peace deal that includes Russia’s military withdrawal .
Blinken said a “ceasefire that simply freezes the current lines” and allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to “consolidate control over the territory he’s captured and rest, rearm and attack again — that’s not fair and it’s not sustainable peace. “
Russia must also pay a share of the reconstruction of Ukraine and be held accountable for launching its full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, Blinken said in a speech during a visit to Finland, which recently joined NATO and has long border with Russia.
Allowing Moscow to keep a fifth of the territory of Ukraine it has occupied would send the wrong message to Russia and to “other potential aggressors around the world,” according to Blinken.
Washington is ready to support peace efforts by other countries, including recent proposals from China and Brazil, he said. But any peace agreement must uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
The United States is a leading Western ally and arms supplier to Kiev to help it repel Kremlin forces.
China, which claims to be neutral and wants to serve as a mediator but has backed Moscow politically, on Friday called on the countries to stop sending weapons to Ukraine.
In Ukraine, air defenses shot down more than 30 Russian cruise missiles and drones on Friday in Moscow’s sixth airstrike in six days against Kiev, local officials said.
The Ukrainian capital was attacked simultaneously from different directions by Iranian Shahed drones and cruise missiles from the Caspian region, wrote a high-ranking official of Kyiv, Sergey Popko, on Telegram.
A 68-year-old man and an 11-year-old child were injured in the attack, and private houses, outbuildings and cars were damaged by falling debris, according to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office.
A recent spate of attacks on the capital has strained residents and tested the strength of Ukraine’s air defenses as authorities in Kiev plan what they say is an upcoming counter-offensive to push back Kremlin forces 15 months after their full-scale invasion. Kiev was the target of drone and missile attacks for 17 days last month, including daytime attacks.
But Moscow’s strategy may backfire, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.
The air campaign aims to “degrade Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities, but … Russia’s prioritization of Kiev likely further limits the campaign’s ability to significantly limit potential Ukrainian counteroffensive actions,” it said in an assessment late Thursday.
Ukraine’s air defense intercepted all 15 cruise missiles and 21 strike drones, Ukraine’s Chief of Staff Valery Zaluzhny said.
Ukraine’s presidential office said on Friday that at least four civilians had been killed and 42 wounded in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Russia’s border areas have again come under fire from Ukraine. Recent cross-border attacks have also rattled these regions of Russia and put the Kremlin on alert.
This may be a Ukrainian strategy to disperse Russian forces before launching a counteroffensive.
“Russian commanders now face a stark dilemma whether to (strengthen) defenses in Russia’s border regions or to reinforce their lines in occupied Ukraine,” the UK defense ministry said on Friday.
Air defense systems shot down “several Ukrainian drones” overnight Thursday in Russia’s southern Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, regional governor Roman Starovoit wrote on Telegram.
In neighboring Bryansk Oblast, which also borders Ukraine, regional governor Alexander Bogomaz said Ukrainian forces shelled two villages on Friday morning. No casualties were reported.
Two drones also attacked energy facilities in Russia’s western Smolensk region, which borders Belarus, in the early hours of Friday, officials said.
Matthew Lee reported from Oslo, Norway. Carl Ritter contributed to this report from Stockholm.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine