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Tillerson Says Russia Must Restore Ukraine Territory, or Sanctions Stay

10 July 2017

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson hold talks in Kiev.

Tillerson's short visit to Kiev comes as the US explores taking a greater role in a European-led effort to end the three-year conflict in Ukraine's east that has claimed around 10,000 lives.

While Trump called the meeting "tremendous" and has called for better ties with Moscow, his administration maintained US sanctions targeting Russian Federation over its 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Tillerson said the United States remains committed to brokering a peaceful solution in Ukraine. Tillerson is in Ukraine to reaffirm American support as the country struggles with an insurgency in the east and attempts to crack down on corruption.

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Ukraine has been rocked by suspected separatist movements along its border with Russian Federation since 2014.

Mr Tillerson recently suggested that Kiev and Moscow might achieve a peace agreement outside the framework of the Minsk deal, and he travelled to Ukraine with the new USA special envoy to the country, Kurt Volker.

Kiev and its European allies have been alarmed by Mr Trump's determination to improve relations with the Kremlin, despite its role in Ukraine and alleged meddling in last year's USA presidential election campaign.

Poroshenko, who said Volker would remain in Ukraine for the next several days, maintained that a resolution to the crisis "needs only the political will of Moscow".

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"Kurt's wealth of experience makes him uniquely qualified to move this conflict in the direction of peace", Tillerson said in a statement. Contrary to concern in Washington that President Donald Trump would unilaterally lift some of the sanctions to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin, the administration has thus far held the line on existing punitive measures. "And so I think that was about the way we expected the conversation to go".

"Most of all we want peace in Ukraine".

He called the initial dialogue an effort to "explore a framework under which we might begin to have agreement on how to deal with these very complex issues of cyberthreats, cybersecurity, cyberintrusions".

The US imposed sanctions against Russian Federation, with the latest expansion in late June, after Russia's reunification with Crimea following a 2014 referendum.

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"The election interference really shows how complicated the use of these types of tools are becoming", Mr. Tillerson continued.