Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations has downplayed a comment by U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that he would consider recognizing Russia's widely condemned annexation of Crimea.
"Mr. Trump is not the president of the United States, at least not yet, " Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said in New York on July 28 as he urged the UN Security Council to declare a recent Russian move to incorporate Crimea into southern Russia "null and void" and once again reaffirm that the peninsula belongs to Ukraine.
"There are the well-known decisions of the United Nations" condemning the annexation as illegal in 2014, he said. "I'm pretty sure that any U.S. government will pay full respect to those decisions."
Yelchenko was responding to comments by Trump on July 27 that appeared to create an opening for Russia by leaving open the question of whether he would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Moscow.
"We'll be looking at that," Trump said at a news conference. "Yeah, we'll be looking."
Yelchenko said: "If this is his opinion as a candidate for the president of the United States, well, this is his opinion. I hope and I'm almost sure that this opinion will change."
The Obama White House said on July 28 that there was no change in its stance on Crimea's annexation, which led to several rounds of sanctions on Russia.
"The United States has been very direct about our view that the attempted annexation of Crimea by Russia is a flagrant violation, an egregious violation of international norms," spokesman Josh Earnest said. "And it's not a violation that the United States is prepared to tolerate."