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Tillerson Delivers Blunt Message to Russia During Ukraine Visit

RFE/RL July 09, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered a blunt message to Russia during a trip to Kyiv on July 9, saying the Kremlin must take the first step to ease tensions in Ukraine and that sanctions against Moscow will remain until it does so.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Tillerson's visit to Kyiv a "powerful" signal of U.S. support for his country since it came right after this week's Group of 20 (G20) summit in Hamburg.

At a joint press conference in the Ukrainian capital on July 9 following their talks, the two men announced that the newly named U.S. special envoy for the war in eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will stay on in Kyiv for several days to push for implementation of the Minsk agreements on ending the conflict.

Tillerson said the United States was disappointed with the lack of progress in implementing the 2-year-old Minsk agreements and placed the lion's share of the blame on Russia.

"It is necessary for Russia to take the first step to de-escalate the situation in the east part of Ukraine," Tillerson said.

"We do call on Russia to honor its commitments that were made under the Minsk accords and to exercise influence over the separatists whom they do hold complete control over," Tillerson said. "And we call on [Russia] again to immediately call on their proxies to cease the violence that is ongoing in east Ukraine."

He said that when U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on July 7 on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany, they discussed "what is to be done about the Russian behavior of nonadherence to the Minsk agreements and nonimplementation of clear and straightforward steps as to the deoccupation of Ukraine."

The war in Ukraine, Tillerson said, was "planned and launched from Moscow."

He also reaffirmed that Washington would not lift sanctions against Russia until Ukraine's territorial integrity was restored. He emphasized that the restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty was "the primary U.S. goal."

In a post on Twitter at nearly the same time, Trump said that "sanctions were not discussed" at his meeting on July 7 with Russian President Putin and that "nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved."

Tillerson also urged Kyiv to "continue economic and anticorruption reforms."

The war in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and separatists receiving political, economic, and military support from Russia has taken more than 10,000 lives since it began in early 2014.

Tillerson departed Ukraine late on July 9, arriving shortly thereafter in the Turkish capital, Ankara, where he held talks with his counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and was scheduled to meet later with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, officials from both countries said.

With reporting by Reuters

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/tillerson-ukraine-poroshenko- kyiv-united-states/28604023.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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