The European Union (EU) "is working to avoid a crisis", but "will firmly support Ukraine" in the event of a Russian attack, says the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, following the US warning that Russia is planning a military offensive in the European country next year.
"We are working to avoid a crisis, but in any eventuality, the EU will stand firmly behind Ukraine," Borrell told the Italian daily Repubblica, stressing the need for "everyone to reflect on the consequences" of such an eventuality.
According to US media, US intelligence services believe that Russia plans to increase its military presence on the Ukrainian border to 175,000 troops with the potential aim of invading Ukraine next year.
"First and foremost, we must work to avert the crisis. We are using our diplomatic capacity to make Russia understand that this would be a serious violation of international law. I also spoke with my (Russian) colleague (Sergei) Lavrov in Stockholm. With Lavrov and (US Secretary of State Antony) Blinken. Lavrov denies any kind of belligerent activity', he explains.
In his opinion, the important thing now is to "illustrate to Moscow the picture of the possible consequences. The time has come to talk and to get an idea of what can happen on both sides. We must remain in a pre-crisis phase".
Noting that Ukraine is not a member of NATO or the EU, Borrell acknowledged that he was "concerned".
"Ukraine is certainly a partner, an ally. So we will be at its side. Moreover, the US has made it very clear that any kind of Russian attack will have consequences," he explains.
"Next week we will have a meeting in Brussels with the Eastern Partnership countries and that will be the time to underline our strong support for Ukraine. My words should not be misunderstood. We are working to avert the crisis, but in any eventuality, the EU will stand firmly behind Ukraine," he stresses.
US President Joe Biden will stress to Russia's Vladimir Putin "US concerns with Russian military activities on the Ukrainian border and reaffirm US support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" in their conversation on Tuesday, according to the White House.
Biden said on Friday that he is preparing "a series of measures", which he did not detail, to defend Ukraine in case Putin decides to launch a military attack.