Rex Tillerson urges Moscow to take 'first step' to ease Ukraine conflict

"It is necessary for Russian Federation to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation in the eastern part of Ukraine", Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. And we do not rule out that we'll be able to arrange a summit following these phone talks.

Following a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Tillerson told reporters the Trump administration will keep sanctions against Russia in place until Ukraine regains the breakaway eastern provinces controlled by ethnic Russian rebels, which he called Moscow's "proxies" in the Donbass region.

The conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people, as well as Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 have pushed ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on July 5 that Tillerson would "reaffirm" Washington's "commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and encourage Kyiv to continue implementing reforms to strengthen its "economic, political, and military resilience".

Tillerson has appointed a special envoy to examine possibilities for jump-starting implementation of a two-year-old peace roadmap known as the Minsk Agreement. The Kremlin has denied backing the separatists.

Earlier, the US state Department reported that the head of Department Rex Tillerson July 9, will pay a working visit to Kiev to meet with Poroshenko.

The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian Federation, though Moscow has denied backing the rebels.

Poroshenko hailed USA involvement and reiterated his commitment to seeking a negotiated peace deal.

Mr Poroshenko called Mr Tillerson's visit a "powerful signal of support" for Ukraine and said his guest had briefed him on the talks that took place in Hamburg.

"Ukraine's come a long way, you know we want to acknowledge that, and we still have more to do. We firmly adhere to our commitments", he said.

Tillerson also commented on another key bone of contention between Trump and Putin at the G20: allegations of Russian interference in United States election campaign, in favour of the Republican candidate. 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.

He noted that Mr. Trump agreed with Putin on the cyber front, and that they are looking to explore ways to deal with cyber threats and cyber security.

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