Pompeo: US 'rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea'

Pompeo: US 'rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea'
© Anna Moneymaker

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE said Wednesday that the United States will never recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, calling on Moscow to "end its occupation" of the territory.

"In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored," Pompeo said in a new statement.

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Pompeo said Russia violated globally agreed upon principles in 2014 when it invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. 

"As democratic states seek to build a free, just, and prosperous world, we must uphold our commitment to the international principle of sovereign equality and respect the territorial integrity of other states," Pompeo said.

"Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community," he added.

The comments are the Trump administration's most explicit rebuke of Russia's claim on Crimea to date, and come as President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE faces criticism for his handling of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

Pompeo's statement was issued less than an hour before he was set to face questions from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The hearing is likely to focus on the details and fallout from the Trump-Putin meeting, as well as enduring questions about Iran and North Korea.

Russia's annexation of Crimea has been widely condemned in the international community. The U.S. and other nations have in the past refused to recognize the move, which led to Russia's expulsion from the then-Group of Eight.

The White House said earlier this month it does "not recognize" Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea, adding that sanctions would remain in place until the territory is returned to Ukraine.

Trump, however, has drawn criticism for his reluctance to speak out against Russia and Putin. On Crimea, he has been noncommittal when asked in recent weeks whether he would recognize Russia's attempt to take the peninsula.

At a press conference at the conclusion of the NATO summit earlier this month, Trump said he was "not happy" about Russia's aggression in Ukraine, but ultimately blamed his predecessor for the situation.

“That was on Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina Majority of voters say Trump should not nominate a Supreme Court justice: poll MORE’s watch, that was not on Trump’s watch,” the president said. “Would I have allowed it to happen? No. I would not have allowed it to happen. But he did allow it to happen, so that was his determination.

“What will happen with Crimea from this point on?" he continued. "That, I can’t tell you. But I’m not happy about Crimea."

Prior to departing for the Group of Seven summit in Canada last month, Trump suggested Russia should be readmitted to the group. That suggestion was roundly rejected by other members. 

Trump reportedly questioned at the summit why allies opposed Russia’s claim on the territory, citing that most of the peninsula’s population speaks Russian.