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QUESTION:  Joining us now is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good to be with you, Norah.  Thanks.

QUESTION:  Well, there were a number of alarming developments today.  Do you believe that Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv could soon fall to Russian forces?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, it’s certainly under threat and it could well be under siege.  This is this opening salvo of a massive invasion, and we see this continuing and threatening Kyiv and threatening other major cities in Ukraine.

QUESTION:  And where is Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, and how concerned are you about his safety right now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  To the best of my knowledge, President Zelenskyy remains in Ukraine at his post.  And of course, we’re concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine, government officials and others.  And we’re doing everything we can to stand with them, to support them.  We’re there for them – not only us, countries throughout Europe and countries around the world.

QUESTION:  And we learned today that Russia captured Chernobyl.  Ukraine’s foreign minister raised the specter of another nuclear disaster.  Is that something the U.S. Government is concerned about?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, they’re going after various utilities, power facilities.  Chernobyl is one of them.  Obviously, that causes heightened concern and scrutiny.  It’s something we’re looking very carefully at.

QUESTION:  When President Biden addressed the nation today, he said that Putin wants a new Soviet Union.  Is there intelligence to suggest that President Putin will advance beyond Ukraine?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  You don’t need intelligence to tell you that that’s exactly what President Putin wants.  He’s made clear that he’d like to reconstitute the Soviet empire.  Short of that, he’d like to reassert a sphere of influence around neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc.  Now, when it comes to a threat beyond Ukraine’s borders, there’s something very powerful standing in his way.  That’s Article 5 of NATO – an attack on one is an attack on all.

QUESTION:  So on that point, I mean, while U.S. troops are not in Ukraine, they are close by.  So what’s being done to lower the risk of some accidental escalation with Russian forces?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, you always want to make sure that you don’t have miscalculations, accidents, and so one of the things we’re looking to do is to be in communication with Russia on a military basis to make very clear what it risks if it miscalculates.

QUESTION:  I want to ask you about some of the troubling words from Vladimir Putin’s speech.  He warned of consequences never seen in history.  Was he threatening a nuclear attack?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I can’t begin to get into his head and to say exactly what he means by that – by those kinds of words, that kind of bluster.  But again, we’ve been prepared for whatever course that he chooses to take.  We were prepared to engage diplomatically, if we could, to divert him from the aggression that he has pursued.  We were also equally prepared now that he’s committed that aggression.

QUESTION:  Russia’s economy is fueled by gas, and the U.S. is a consumer.  So would the U.S. consider cutting off oil and gas purchases from Russia?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, what we’re doing, Norah, across the board is making sure that we inflict maximum pain on Russia for what President Putin has done while minimizing any of the pain to us.  We’re in full coordination with other countries, both consumers and producers alike, to minimize any impact that this may have on energy prices and on gasoline.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Norah.  Good to be with you.

U.S. Department of State

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