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U.S. Envoy For Ukraine To Meet Kremlin Aide In Belgrade

Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov (left) and U.S. special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker (composite file photo)
Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov (left) and U.S. special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker (composite file photo)

Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, says he will meet with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov on October 7 in Serbia's capital, Belgrade.

"Will meet Russian counterpart Oct 7 in Belgrade to discuss how to catalyze Minsk implementation and restore Ukraine's territorial integrity," Volker tweeted early on October 5.

"Minsk" refers to a February 2015 agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital, that called for a cease-fire and set out steps to end the conflict that have gone largely unimplemented.

The meeting will be the second between Volker and Surkov, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin's point man for the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Belgrade is a neutral venue. Volker has thus far refused to meet with Surkov in Russia, and Surkov is barred from the European Union under sanctions imposed in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

The two held talks for the first time on August 21 in Minsk.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appointed Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, as the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations in July.

After the August meeting, Surkov said his discussion with Volker was "useful and constructive."

The war between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.

Russia-backed separatists seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which border Russia, and the war has persisted despite the February 2015 agreement and a September 2014 deal that was also signed in Minsk.

Sanctions imposed by the EU, the United States, and other countries have not prompted Russia to abandon its support for the separatists or fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have been driven to a post-Cold War low by disagreements over issues including Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its role in the war in Syria, and its alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

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