The US ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday delivered the Trump administration's strongest words toward Russia since Trump took office.
UN ambassador Nikki Haley declared that existing US sanctions would stay in place against Russia stemming from its annexation of the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine, amid renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country this week.
"I consider it unconscionable that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia," Haley said Thursday. "The dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions."
Russia ushered in a takeover of Crimea in March 2014, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was booted weeks earlier. Russia's annexation has been condemned globally, and the US and Europe issued a series of sanctions stemming from Russia's incursions into the country.
Less than three years later, fighting has ramped up again, according to reports from the region, with deadly fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists reported up and down the 450-kilometer front line.
%shareLinks-quote="The sudden increase in fighting in Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure, and the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more." type="quote" author="Nikki Haley" authordesc="UN ambassador " isquoteoftheday="false"%
She continued: "The United States continues to condemn and calls for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine."
Trump has, to the dismay of US Republican and Democratic leaders, been sympathetic toward Putin during and after the presidential election. Members of his Cabinet, including National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, have similarly expressed an affinity for warmer relations with Russia.
Former President Barack Obama placed additional sanctions on Russia for cyberattacks aimed at disrupting the US election. Before his inauguration, Trump suggested the sanctions might not be necessary if Moscow "is really helping us."