U.S. President Donald Trump made it clear he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine and reduce violence in Ukraine, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.
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"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."
The new tone is a departure from opinions Trump expressed last year on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. In an interview with ABC in July, Trump did not back away from a suggestion he had made earlier to recognize Russia's claim on Crimea, CNN reported. "I'm going to take a look at it," Trump said. "But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were."
Creating some confusion, Trump also told ABC that Putin won't invade Ukraine, despite the fact that the Russian leader had already done just that in 2014. "He's not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down," Trump said.
When the interviewer told Trump that Russia already had a military presence in Crimea, Trump responded: "OK - well, he's there in a certain way. But I'm not there. You have Obama there."
The following day, Trump attempted to explain his position on Crimea in a series of tweets. "When I said in an interview that Putin is 'not going into Ukraine, you can mark it down,' I am saying if I am President. Already in Crimea!" Trump wrote.
He also continued to blame Obama for the conflict, tweeting: "So with all of the Obama tough talk on Russia and the Ukraine, they have already taken Crimea and continue to push. That's what I said!"