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WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned Russia’s “latest invasion” of Ukraine Tuesday but said the United States is working with allies to prevent the conflict from growing.

Speaking at the Pentagon with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Austin said the United States will continue to work closely with Kyiv and allies “in trying to find a way to avoid further conflict.”

He praised Ukraine’s “measured response” in calling for a peaceful solution “in the face of Russia’s aggression, provocations and false accusations.”

Russia ‘poised to strike’ Ukraine, US defense secretary says

Russian President Vladimir Putin “can still avoid a full blown, tragic war of choice,” Austin added.

Kuleba, in Washington for meetings with top officials as the crisis continued to deteriorate, said he was on a diplomatic mission.

“But these days diplomacy means also defense,” he said, as Kyiv seeks broder military support from the United States.

“My message is simple: Strong Ukraine is the best deterrence of Russia,” he said.

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