Blinken to discuss support for Ukraine in Czech Republic visit next week

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Czech Republic and Moldova next week, the U.S. State Department said in a statement on Friday, where he will attend an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien told reporters that the meeting will prepare decisions to be made at a July NATO summit in Washington.

"We do not anticipate that there'll be an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, but we think there will be a substantial show of support for Ukraine as it works to win its war," O'Brien said.

This will include NATO support in building Ukraine's future force and efforts to help the country make reforms needed for Ukraine to join the European Union and NATO, he said.

O'Brien said Washington was focused on ensuring that Ukraine is able to succeed both on the battlefield and when it decides to make peace with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukraine peace talks need to be renewed, but that Russia would only deal with legitimate leaders in Kyiv.

Putin also said talks must reflect "today's realities on the ground".

"We do not see President Putin as being interested in peace now," O'Brien said. "We are always interested in seeing that when Ukraine is prepared to make peace, that it's able to do so on terms that are a success for Ukraine."

O'Brien said that Russia would not be able to attack Ukrainian cities and targets in the way it has without Chinese support in the war. The United States has repeatedly warned about Russia's sanctions evasion through China and other countries.

"We've made clear that we will take additional steps against the specific Chinese actors involved, and we're in ongoing consultations with our European colleagues," O'Brien warned.

He said he thought China was taking seriously warnings that support for Russia needs to stop.

Blinken will also meet Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky and other senior officials for discussions on continued support for Ukraine, collaborative defense modernization and deepening energy ties, according to the statement.

While in Moldova, Blinken will discuss U.S. support for the country's progress on EU accession and energy security, the statement said.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)