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U.S. Would Support New Solution to Ukraine War, Tillerson Says

Secretary of state hints that Kyiv and Moscow could talk outside the stalled Minsk peace process.

15 June 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (pictured) has mooted the idea of bypassing the stalled Ukrainian peace talks, as the UN says the conflict there shows little sign of abating.

 

In remarks, made in testimony before the House Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Tillerson said the United States would support efforts by Russia and Ukraine to negotiate outside the Minsk peace process, the internationally-backed talks that have made little progress in resolving the war, now in its fourth year.

 

The remarks could put Washington at odds with Germany and France, the other two main Western guarantors of the Minsk process, Dow Jones Newswires reports.

 

"I think it's important we be given sufficient flexibility to achieve the Minsk objectives," Tillerson said, adding, "It's possible that the government of Ukraine and the government of Russia could come to a satisfactory resolution through some structure other than Minsk, but would achieve the objectives of Minsk, which we're committed to."

 

The United States has always made implementation of the Minsk agreements a condition for lifting sanctions against Russia. The sanctions are widely seen as contributing to Russia’s economic slowdown, along with falling energy prices and the weakness of the Russian ruble.

 

Also this week, the latest UN report on the conflict takes the warring parties to task for repeatedly breaking cease-fires and obstructing the peace process.

 

At the peak of the fighting in 2014-2015, more than 1.6 million people fled their homes, and about 3 million remained in territory controlled by armed groups, a UN press release states.

 

A conservative estimate puts the death toll up to mid-May at more than 10,090, including 2,777 civilians, the UN says.

 

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has hit the elderly and disabled people particularly hard, the report says. They are among hundreds of thousands in the region whose only means of support is their monthly pension. Their difficulties began in 2014 when the Kyiv authorities limited access to pensions for 160,000 people living in areas outside their control. More restrictions imposed last year led to 400,000 more people losing access to their pensions, the report states.

 

 

  • The risk of a significant escalation of the conflict remains high, the UN report says, adding that since it began in April 2014, “the conflict has been exacerbated by the inflow of foreign fighters, and supply of ammunition and heavy weaponry, reportedly from the Russian Federation.”

 

  • Two cyber security firms claim the malware that they believe caused a major power outage in Ukraine last December could be used to attack critical infrastructure in other countries, Reuters reports. Kyiv blamed the outage on Russian hackers.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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