US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he strongly hopes that Russia can stick to a diplomatic and peaceful path to defuse tensions in the region.

Hoping to show robust support ahead of the talks, the top US diplomat is making a one-day visit to Kiev in a show of support for Ukraine.
Hoping to show robust support ahead of the talks, the top US diplomat is making a one-day visit to Kiev in a show of support for Ukraine. (AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to choose a "peaceful path" as the top US diplomat paid a solidarity visit to Ukraine amid invasion fears.

"I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but ultimately, that's going to be President Putin's decision," Blinken said on Wednesday at the US embassy, two days before talks with his Russian counterpart in Geneva.

Blinken also warned that Putin could be preparing to send more forces towards Ukraine after massing tens of thousands of troops.

"We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine," Blinken said on a visit to Kyiv.

Blinken has landed in Kiev earlier on Wednesday for crisis talks with Ukraine's leaders, as diplomatic efforts to dissuade Russia from attacking its pro-Western neighbour falter.

READ MORE: US warns Russia could attack Ukraine 'at any point'

After talks last week failed to ease fears, the White House warned on Tuesday that Russia was ready to attack Ukraine at "any point".

It was a marked intensification of its threat assessment ahead of a meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expected in Geneva on Friday.

Hoping to show robust support ahead of the talks, the top US diplomat is making a one-day visit to Kiev in a show of support for Ukraine.

Seeking Western unity

Blinken heads Thursday to Berlin for four-way talks with Britain, France and Germany to seek Western unity.

"We're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine," the White House's Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Diplomatic off-ramp

In a call between the US and Russian top diplomats ahead of Blinken's trip, the Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov had called on Blinken "not to replicate speculation about the allegedly impending 'Russian aggression'".

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blinken's goal was to see "if there is a diplomatic off-ramp" and "common ground" where Russia can be persuaded to pull back from Ukraine.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massing on Ukraine's borders, efforts have intensified to prevent tensions escalating into a new European war.

Kiev has been battling a pro-Moscow insurgency in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far left more than 13,000 dead.

READ MORE: Blinken urges diplomatic path on Ukraine in call with Russian minister

Source: TRTWorld and agencies