US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly leading the behind-the-scenes efforts trying to revitalize Trump’s plan to normalize relations with Russia that has not of yet succeeded.
Citing US officials and outside experts, the newspaper reports that Tillerson wants to restart the talks hoping that new circumstances and personalities could bring better results than any previous attempts. Tillerson is said to have already held multiple discussions on the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Tillerson reportedly wants to tap a special envoy at the Department of State to deal with the Ukrainian issue. The envoy is expected to revitalize the diplomatic channel with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov – a task which was not formerly fulfilled by former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland.
US-Russian relations deteriorated in 2014 following the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis and Crimea’s rejoining with Russia. The United States and its allies introduced sanctions against Russia over its alleged interference in the Ukrainian internal affairs, while Russia denied all the allegations.
On May 24, Trump reiterated in a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, US determination to maintain transatlantic accord for holding Russia responsible for the situation in the Donbass region.
In February 2015, Kiev forces and Donbass independence supporters signed a peace agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The deal stipulates a full ceasefire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in Donbass, as well as constitutional reforms that would give a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Despite the agreement brokered by the Normandy Four states (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), the ceasefire regime is regularly violated, with both sides accusing each other of multiple breaches, undermining the terms of the accord.