US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says sanctions will remain on Russia until it returns control of Crimea to Ukraine

Washington (AFP) – The United States reaffirmed Wednesday that it will keep sanctions on Russia until it “returns control of Crimea to Ukraine,” nearly five years after Moscow annexed the peninsula.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula five years ago has fueled “an escalation of Russian aggression.”

“The world has not forgotten the cynical lies Russia employed to justify its aggression and mask its attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory,” he said.

Crimea’s parliament elected a new local government on February 27, 2014, after the territory was seized by a Russian military force amid fighting between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions.

A referendum on the future of the peninsula, denounced as illegitimate by the United States, was held on March 16 of that year approving Crimea’s reattachment to Russia.

“The United States reiterates its unwavering position: Crimea is Ukraine and must be returned to Ukraine’s control,” Pompeo said, denouncing “the worsening repression by Russia’s occupation regime in Crimea.”

He called on Moscow to release the more than 70 people that he said have been imprisoned for their peaceful dissent, and “to cease all abuses immediately.”

“The United States will maintain respective sanctions against Russia until the Russian government returns control of Crimea to Ukraine and fully implements the Minsk agreements,” he said, referring to a 2015 peace accord that was never applied in its entirety.

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