WASHINGTON -- The U.S. special peace envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, says Russian propaganda is making it a challenge to solve the conflict in the east of the country.
Speaking to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in Washington, Volker said Moscow's denial of responsibility for its role in the battle between separatists and Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country "makes it much harder for the international community to insist that Russia actually fulfill its obligations" under the Minsk peace agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 that were aimed at resolving the conflict.
"To the extent that Russia tries to confuse the issue and deny what they're doing, it complicates the effort to actually solve the problems," he said.
Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by the pro-European Maidan protest movement the previous month.
Moscow has also fomented unrest and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Some 13,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million more have been internally displaced in the smoldering conflict over the past five years, according to estimates by the United Nations.
Since the 2014 annexation, Russia has beefed up its military in Crimea with new ships, missiles and warplanes, as well as with infrastructure projects such as power plants and bridges.
Earlier this week, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry protested Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest visit to Crimea, calling it a "gross violation" of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"It is not a case of some indigenous separatist conflict. It is Russia actually doing this. I think getting that narrative right and understood [to the] wider public is essential if we're actually ever going to get the problem addressed the way it should be," Volker said.