11:30 GMT +313 December 2019
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    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office

    Wishful Thinking: Ukrainian FM Reveals US Plan to Step Up 'Pressure on Russia'

    © Photo : Facebook / Embassy of Ukraine in the USA
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    The United States wants to increase pressure on Russia and participate more actively in the Ukrainian settlement. According to the Ukrainian foreign minister, these issues were discussed during his talks in Washington last week.

    On Thursday, Pavlo Klimkin paid a visit to the White House, including speaking with US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about the situation in the war-torn Ukrainian region of Donbass.

    In an interview with the Ukrainian broadcaster TSN, the minister elaborated on the details on his talks in Washington. In particular, according to Klimkin, he was concerned about the possibility of the US increasing pressure on Russia over the Donbass conflict. In addition to new sanctions, the sides discussed the possibility of sending "new powerful political messages" to Moscow.

    Apparently, Kiev expects the issue will be on the agenda during the upcoming NATO summit on May 25 or a G7 meeting on May 26-27. Klimkin said those ideas were "interesting" and added they were aimed at countering the "systemic threat" posed by Russia.

    "One of the main political signals is the real intention to be engaged in mounting pressure on Russia. There are some very interesting ideas," Klimkin said, commenting on the conversation with Trump.

    "Of course, there are economic leverage tools and sanctions. But it is only one of the dimensions," he added.

    Nevertheless, he did not provide any further details, citing the need to coordinate the "new political messages" with other players, first of all with Berlin and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. Klimkin also made it clear that expansion of the mandate of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) could be expanded, possibly, a new mission that would "really control the Donbass territory."

    Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert underscored that Washington will not remove the anti-Russian sanctions imposed in 2014.

    "On Ukraine, Secretary Tillerson stressed the need for progress toward full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them," Nauert said in a statement.

    On Friday, Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Valery Chaliy said that Washington reaffirmed that it would make no decision "behind Ukraine’s back."

    "There will be no decisions behind Ukraine’s back. They reaffirmed. These meetings show that this is a clear strategy of the new US presidential administration," the diplomat said.

    According to Chaliy, the meeting with Trump and Pence was initiated by the Ukrainian side and indicated Washington’s support for Kiev.

    In fact, the meeting between Klimkin and Trump was not on schedule and was a diplomatic gesture of favor towards the Ukrainian minister. However, the positive atmosphere was a bit spoiled by claims that Kiev paid lobbyists $400,000 to arrange the meeting.

    Member of the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) Andrii Artemenko wrote on Facebook that the meeting had not been planned in advance, but was arranged to compensate for the meeting between President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which took place a day earlier.

    On Friday, Klimkin denied that the Foreign Ministry paid lobbyists for the meeting.

    "I definitely do not use lobbyists or others for organizing meetings; this is my principle," Klimkin said at a press briefing.

    The success of Klimkin’s talks in Washington was also doubted after Vice President Pence said that the Donbass conflict can only be resolved via the Minsk agreements.

    According to a White House press release, Pence told Klimkin that while the US would continue to offer "unwavering…support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," it also considered "that the Minsk agreements remain the most viable path toward peace."

    The visit of the Ukrainian foreign minister to Washington came after US media recently reported that the US may decrease assistance to Ukraine. In late-April, Foreign Policy magazine reported on a State Department document detailing US plans to cut its economic assistance to Ukraine by 68.8 percent in 2018. The proposed drop in spending would see assistance fall from the currently allotted $570 million to just $177 million.

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    sanctions, talks, Minsk agreements, Pavlo Klimkin, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Ukraine, Russia, United States
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