Rex Tillerson urges Moscow to take 'first step' to ease Ukraine conflict

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has noted the effectiveness of talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"It is necessary for Russian Federation to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation in the eastern part of Ukraine", Tillerson told reporters. He thanked Tillerson for the continued US commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed deep appreciation for his "symbolic and timely visit immediately after the meetings at the G-20 in Hamburg" where Trump met with Putin.

"As yet, unclear where", he said.

"The US and European Union sanctions on Russian Federation will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered these particular sanctions", Tillerson said at a briefing after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.

A few days ago, Mr. Tillerson announced he was appointing a new special envoy, Kurt Volker, an experienced diplomat, to help settle the dispute in Ukraine in part at the request of Mr. Putin.

Tillerson did not mention Crimea during the Sunday press conference, but he did suggest that Russia's annexation of the peninsula is still a major point of contention in the ongoing diplomatic talks on sanctions, reports the Washington Post.

The Secretary appointed a special representative for Ukraine last week, in an effort to further involve the the region.

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Poroshenko thanked Tillerson for the continued US commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tillerson's short visit to Kiev comes as the USA explores taking a greater role in a European-led effort to end the three-year conflict in Ukraine's east that has claimed around 10,000 lives.

Photo Mr. Tillerson, left, assured Mr. Poroshenko during their meeting that the United States was setting a high bar for lifting sanctions on Russian Federation.

Volker served as the USA ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation under Obama from 2008-09. "It was planned and started in Moscow". The Ukrainian government contends that political reform depends on an end to the violence.

Speaking to a group of reform advocates at the United States ambassador's residence, Tillerson praised Ukraine's progress in combating corruption but made clear that more must be accomplished.

"Most of all we want peace in Ukraine".

"Ukraine has come a long way", he said. "We have to find a way to begin to address that, and it's not going to be only about Russian Federation, it's going to be about worldwide engagement as well".