Secretary of State Tillerson Visits Ukraine

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that relations between the USA and Russian Federation will be strained as long as Moscow keeps supporting separatist forces in Ukraine and holds on to territory it has seized from its neighbor.

"I've been very clear in my discussions with the Russian leadership on more than one occasion, that it is necessary for Russia to take the first steps to de-escalating the situation in the east part of Ukraine", Mr Tillerson said in Kiev on Sunday.

Mr Trump held brief talks with Mr Poroshenko in Washington last month, but spent far more time with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg last Friday.

"As yet, unclear where", he said.

"We are disappointed by the lack of progress under the Minsk agreement", he added at a joint briefing with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after they held talks.

The rhetoric is remarkably different from three months ago, when while at a G7 meeting in Italy Tillerson questioned why United States taxpayers should be interested 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.




"Important & timely move in the interests of ending Russian aggression and restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity, including Crimea", Poroshenko tweeted.

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. Under the Obama administration, the USA had taken a hands-off approach to Minsk, allowing the Europeans to take the lead. Economic sanctions put in place over that conflict remain in place, as are tougher ones implemented in the waning days of former President Barack Obama's term over Russia's interference in the 2016 election. "That's why the keys to peaceful settlement are in Moscow".

Tillerson and other USA officials for some time have been pushing Ukraine to press ahead with reforms that would curb corruption and improve governmental transparency.

"Ukraine has come a long way", he said. "This is all about securing Ukraine's future: making the place attractive for investors, being attractive to their European neighbors".

"We came to agreement with the secretary-general that Ukraine and the whole world today need strong and decisive actions by the United Nations like never before", Poroshenko said.

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