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Russia tells Trump it won’t return Crimea to Ukraine

IANS | Moscow |

Russia does not return its territories, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said in response to the White House statement that US President Trump was expecting Moscow to return Crimea to Kiev.

"We do not return our territories. Crimea is Russian territory," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday, reaffirming Moscow's long-standing position that the issue is permanently closed.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that Trump expected Russia to "return Crimea" to Ukraine.

"President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea," Spicer said at a daily news briefing. "At the same time, he fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said his country's sovereignty over the peninsula could not be discussed as "Russia does not discuss issues related to its territory with foreign partners", reported Sputnik.

According to him, the issue of Crimea had not even been raised in the phone call between Trump and President Vladimir Putin on January 28. The spokesman said Moscow expected the issue to be discussed calmly and in a constructive way once relations with Washington were more positive.

He said Putin would patiently explain to the US the so-called coup in Ukraine, which led Crimean citizens to apply for admission into Russia.

Crimea re-joined Russia after a 2014 referendum, when almost 97 per cent of the region's population voted for the reunification. The referendum was not accepted by Kiev or by the international community.

During the election campaign, according to the report, Trump claimed he would "consider" recognising Crimea as part of Russia following the referendum in the peninsula, adding that the Crimeans wanted to live in Russia.

The US President has repeatedly advocated establishing a political dialogue with Moscow, particularly in regard to the fight against terrorism, and expressed readiness to build positive relations with Russia. Moscow has long been promoting the idea of fruitful cooperation with Washington.