Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked Russia on Wednesday to reinstate its military personnel at a monitoring station in eastern Ukraine intended to quell escalating bloodshed.
In a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson also urged Russia to “lower the level of violence” and underscored the Trump administration’s “concern” over increased fighting in Ukraine, the State Department said in a statement.
Russia last week withdrew its monitors from the Joint Center on Coordination and Control, which is tasked with verifying a much-violated ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists. Moscow cited what it called restrictions and “provocations” from Ukrainian authorities that made it impossible for the observers to do their jobs.
Washington has accused the pro-Russia forces of being responsible for many of the truce violations.
Late last week, the State Department also announced plans to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, a decision that angered Moscow.
The State Department statement did not say whether the weapons deal came up in Tillerson’s conversation with Lavrov.
The two also discussed North Korea, its “destabilizing nuclear program” and the need for a diplomatic solution “to achieve a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” the statement said. Russia has offered to serve as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang, but direct talks do not seem likely at this point.