U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday Russia must make the first move to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, during a first official visit to Kiev that President Petro Poroshenko called a powerful signal of U.S. support. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday Russia must make the first move to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, during a first official visit to Kiev that President Petro Poroshenko called a powerful signal of U.S. support. Tillerson said Washington's primary goal was the restoration of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty, in comments that will cheer Kiev and show ties are warmer than many in Ukraine dared hope after U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Ukraine has counted on U.S. support against Russia since a pro-Western government took power following street protests in 2014 that ousted a Kremlin-backed president. But some of Trump's comments during the election campaign last year, from appearing to recognize Crimea as part of Russia to contemplating an end to U.S. sanctions, stoked fears in Kiev that Trump would mend ties with Moscow at Ukraine's expense. Such fears appear to have eased, for the moment. Trump has not cut a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin behind Ukraine's back over the future of Crimea and Donbass, nor have sanctions on Russia been lifted. "I've been very clear in my discussions with Russian leadership, on more than one occasion, that it is necessary for Russia to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation in the east part of Ukraine, in particular by respecting the ceasefire," Tillerson said. Relations between Ukraine and Russia went into freefall after Moscow's annexation of Crimea and the subsequent outbreak of a pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern Donbass region that has killed more than 10,000 people. "We're extremely satisfied with the level of cooperation with our American partners," Poroshenko said during Sunday's talks with Tillerson. Speaking to reporters later, Poroshenko said: "In today's visit we see a powerful signal of U.S. support in our common fight for democratic values, for freedom and democracy." Ukraine has welcomed as a friendly face the Trump administration's appointment of Kurt Volker as a special representative to the Minsk peace process. A career diplomat, Volker is a former aide to Republican Senator John McCain, a Russia hawk who wants the United States to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, a move the previous administration under Barack Obama shied away from.