U.S. appoints ex-NATO envoy to handle Ukraine crisis

Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that "it is necessary for Russian Federation to take the first step to de-escalate the situation in the east part of Ukraine", pulling back heavy weaponry to lines agreed upon under a two-year-old accord known as the Minsk Agreement.

Tillerson's visit to Ukraine followed a first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

According to the president, Ukraine is not interested in delaying such negotiations, because "Ukraine pays a high price - its heroes are wounded and killed" every day.

Volker will oversee USA efforts to press Ukraine and Russian Federation to fully comply with the Minsk Agreement, which lays out a roadmap for reducing the conflict that has claimed some 10,000 lives over the past three years.

The West imposed economic sanctions after Russian Federation annexed Crimea and fomented an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in spring 2014, in the wake of pro-democracy protests that ousted pro-Moscow politicians from power in Kiev.

Speaking to a group of reform advocates at the USA ambassador's residence, Tillerson praised Ukraine's progress in combating corruption but made clear that more must be accomplished. "First and foremost to restore Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and integrity", Mr Tillerson said alongside Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

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The State Department announced on July 7 that Tillerson would be accompanied to Kyiv by Kurt Volker, a former USA ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation whom Trump's top diplomat has appointed as a special envoy to negotiate over the fate of war-racked Ukraine.

Tillerson said the United States remains committed to brokering a peaceful solution in Ukraine.

Rasmussen has stressed that Ukraine's security is NATO's security, and "many of the challenges we face today - from election interference to cyber security - are areas where Ukraine has significant experience in countering". With EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation support, Ukraine has come a very long way in the past three years with an ambitious reform programme, and it has begun to bear fruit with the DCFTA and visa liberalization.

After a meeting later Sunday with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Poroshenko called on the world body to take a more active role in addressing Ukraine's problems.

When asked about the meeting on Sunday, Tillerson said, "In all candidness we did not expect an answer other than the one we received".

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