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US blames Russia for violence in eastern Ukraine

US BLAMES RUSSIA FOR VIOLENCE IN EASTERN UKRAINE

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday blamed Russia for armed violence in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Tillerson said: "Russia is arming, leading, training and fighting alongside anti-government forces [in Ukraine]."

He called on Russia and its proxies to end its harassment and attacks on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

"In eastern Ukraine, we join our European partners in maintaining sanctions until Russia withdraws its forces from the Donbass (region) and meets its Minsk commitments," he said.

The 2015 Minsk ceasefire agreement was brokered in the Belarussian capital by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

He added that the U.S. did not accept Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 after an illegal independence vote.

"We will never accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine," Tillerson said.

The UN General Assembly has voted to proclaim the Russian annexation illegal. Along with many UN countries, the U.S., the EU and Turkey also do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

Speaking about the Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, he said: "We must make progress in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict."

"We are pleased with the commitments made by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia at the summit in October to intensify the negotiations and to reduce the tension along the line of contact. Substantive progress can be made when there is a political will," he added.

Occupied Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijani territory by the international community but was taken over by Armenian secessionists as the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s.

Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.

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