Tillerson: “Associated with the Crimea sanctions would remain in force”

U.S. Secretary of state plans to meet in Vienna with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, assured on Thursday that the United States would never accept Russian annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and the resulting sanctions will remain in force as long as Russia does not return control of the Peninsula to Ukraine.

Tillerson made this statement on Thursday in Vienna, before the planned meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, amid growing pessimism about the prospects for U.S.-Russian relations suffer from disagreement over Ukraine, Syria and alleged Russian intervention in elections in the United States.

“We will never agree with Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. Related Crimea sanctions will remain in force as long as Russia does not regain control over the Peninsula to Ukraine”, – he said.

“In regard to Eastern Ukraine, we join our European partners in maintaining the sanctions as long as Russia does not withdraw its troops from the Donbass and does not fulfill its obligations Minsk,” – said Tillerson, referring to the previous agreement on promoting peace in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Tillerson said that normal relations with Russia, while Moscow does not stop supporting separatists in Ukraine and return the Crimea.

Speaking after a dinner in Brussels on Tuesday, he discussed the situation with Russia with the foreign Ministers of NATO countries, Tillerson took a tougher stance than the President of the United States Donald trump, who seeks to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking at NATO, Tillerson said that, “by continuing to use the tools of hybrid war, Russia is trying to undermine Western institutions,” meaning by these means the combination of state-supported cyber attacks and campaigns of misinformation on the Internet, which, in the opinion of the intelligence of the allies, directed against the West.

“This is a significant obstacle to the normalization of our relations,” he said in an interview with reporters.

At a dinner with NATO Ministers Tillerson also accused Russia of meddling in the elections in the United States, reported present at the diplomat.

Russia denies any interference.

Trump has repeatedly stressed that it would be better if Russia and USA could work together. However, the former allies of the President is being investigated in connection with allegations that Putin influenced the elections, the results of which trump was in the White house.

In conversation with the Ministers Tillerson stressed that the Ukrainian crisis resulting from the annexation of Crimea in 2014, is the main problem on the way to improve U.S.-Russian relations since the seizure of sovereign territory is unacceptable, said a second diplomat who was present.

The armed conflict between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists in the East of the country, which began in 2014, claimed the lives of more than 10 thousand people. Russia rejects charges that it is fanning the conflict, supplying weapons and direct their fighters.

“People continue to die every day from violence,” said Tillerson.

Tillerson, who as head of Exxon Mobil, in 2013, Putin received the Russian order of Friendship, and expressed hope for an agreement on the placement of UN troops in Eastern Ukraine, an idea that the President of Russia said in September.

In a situation when coordinated at the international level, the ceasefire has repeatedly been violated, and efforts to revive the peace agreement of 2015 has stalled, peacekeepers can achieve the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of trade between Russia and Ukraine.

But Tillerson warned that there are still “significant difference between the mandate that may be given to the peacekeeping forces and the scope of this mandate.”

“We hope that we can bridge that gap,” said Tillerson.

Russia seeks the lifting of Western sanctions imposed in connection with the crisis in Ukraine, but European officials fear that the UN peacekeeping mission most likely freeze the conflict rather than resolve it.

Tillerson also warned to treat Russia as a partner, stating that the basis of all meetings with Russia should be some problems, and they should not be conducted only in connection with some calendar time.

The statement of the Secretary of state has dispelled hopes for a détente in relations between Moscow and Washington.

“I think among NATO members there is a wide consensus about the fact that today no normalization of the dialogue with Russia”, – he said.

Moscow for its part has accused Washington that he creates difficulties for working in the United States of Russian journalists, including attempts their recruitment as spies.

The representative of the Russian foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that American intelligence agencies are putting pressure on Russian journalists, including trying to recruit.

“In addition to legislative pressure of the government of this country (USA) are actively practicing a less formal, but, in their view, apparently, more effective methods, she said. – Recently, representatives of the Russian media, including in the United States, were subjected to hard pressure from the American intelligence services, namely the recruitment activities”.

According to Zakharova, similar actions against the Russian media will be one of the topics that Lavrov will discuss at negotiations with Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday.

“Tomorrow, the relevant information will be presented to the American side during the scheduled talks in Vienna, foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Rex Tillerson, she said, according to TASS. – So, to say that they have no information and they do not comment, will not happen”.