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Politics & Government

U.N. Ambassador Haley Condemns Russia's 'Aggressive Actions' In Ukraine


And that new president, of course, has made no secret about wanting better relations with Russia. But something seems to be getting in the way right now, fresh violence in Ukraine. Russia is supporting separatists there. And Trump's new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had some tough words for Russia, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: This was Nikki Haley's debut in the Security Council. And she says it was unfortunate that her first remarks there were about Russia.


NIKKI HALEY: I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia. It is unfortunate because it is a replay of far too many instances over many years in which United States representatives have needed to do that.

KELEMEN: The former South Carolina governor says the U.S. stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered, in her words, three years of Russian occupation and military intervention.


HALEY: The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure. And the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more. This escalation of violence must stop.

KELEMEN: The ambassador also made clear that U.S. sanctions put in place to punish Russia for annexing Crimea will remain in place until the Crimean Peninsula is returned to Ukraine. Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, gave a brief lecture in the Security Council, arguing that voters in Crimea backed a referendum to rejoin Russia and blaming Ukraine for the latest violence. U.N. reporters asked him later what he thought of Haley's remarks.


VITALY CHURKIN: I don't want to read too much into that or whatever because it's just the beginning of the road. Hopefully, the road will lead to something more constructive than we have seen so far.

KELEMEN: Churkin says Haley could be key on how the Security Council functions.


CHURKIN: Our position is very obvious. If there is an opportunity to have better relations with the United States - if there is an opportunity for us to work better with the United States to deal with various international problems which are extremely complicated and acute, then we should take this opportunity.

KELEMEN: One way Haley suggested to improve relations is for Russia to implement the commitments it made under an international ceasefire agreement for Ukraine. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.