US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau (not pictured), following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Rzeszow, Poland March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS)

RZESZOW, Poland — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Poland’s prime minister and foreign minister on Saturday in a Polish city near the Ukrainian border, which hundreds of thousands of people have crossed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken praised Poland, a NATO member, for its response to Russia’s actions. Poland is hosting roughly 10,000 US troops, with more than half arriving in recent weeks.

“Poland is doing vital work to respond to this crisis… It has done a great deal to facilitate security assistance to Ukraine,” he said at a joint news conference with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in the city of Rzeszow.

The State Department said Blinken would discuss security and humanitarian assistance in response to the invasion and thank Poland for welcoming those displaced by the fighting in Ukraine.

The number of refugees could rise to 1.5 million by the end of the weekend from a current 1.3 million, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said on Saturday.

War crimes

Rau said Poland would continue to welcome refugees regardless of nationality, race, and religion: “The attack on Ukraine already transformed Europe and its sense of security.”

Poland will not accept any territorial changes brought about by “unprovoked, illegal aggression”, he added.

Poland is also setting up a center to document war crimes committed in Ukraine. Rau said he had discussed with Blinken cooperation with the United States on this issue.

“Due to its own painful experience in the past, Poland will consequently demand prosecuting war criminals,” Rau said, specifically citing the Nazi bombing of the city of Wielun — sometimes known as the ‘Polish Guernica’ — at the start of World War II.

Russia describes its actions as “a special military operation”, not an invasion, and says its aim is to disarm Ukraine, counter what it views as NATO aggression and capture Ukrainian leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

Blinken arrived in Poland from Brussels, where he met foreign ministers from the NATO alliance, the G7 grouping, and the European Union on Friday to discuss the West’s efforts to deter Russia through a program of harsh sanctions.

In Poland, he will also meet a bipartisan US Congressional delegation led by Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks, a Democrat, and including the committee’s ranking Republican Michael McCaul.

NATO members are providing military aid to Ukraine’s government forces for their fight against Russia’s military, much of it passing through Poland.

But the alliance has declined Ukrainian demands to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, saying this could provoke a much broader and even more dangerous conflict.

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