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US, Russia ‘agree to disagree’ on Crimea: White House

The US White House has declared that Washington continues to reject the reunification of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea with Russia in a 2014 referendum and will not lift sanctions on Moscow until the decision is reversed.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that Washington would “agree to disagree” on matters surrounding the Crimea with Moscow at an upcoming meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The West brands the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia.

“We do not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea,” Sanders said during a briefing with reporters at the White House. “We agree to disagree with Russia on that front and our Crimea sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Sanders’ comments were backed by those of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who a day earlier said it is “not the position of the United States” that Crimea is Russian territory.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov ruled out on Monday the possibility of negotiations on Crimea, saying that the Black Sea peninsula was an “inalienable” part of Russia and not a subject on the agenda at the Putin-Trump summit.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet at first one-on-one talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on July 16.

The rejoining of Crimea to Russia came following deep political changes in Kiev where a pro-Western movement staged weeks of street protests that led to the ouster of a pro-Russia government in the country.

People in Crimea and in the industrial eastern territories of Ukraine, areas which are dominated by ethnic Russians, effectively refused to endorse a West-backed new administration in Kiev. Crimea decided to rejoin Russia in a referendum in March 2014 and two provinces in the east revolted by establishing self-declared republics.