US does not recognize Russia’s Crimea annexation, Sanders says

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answers questions during the daily White House briefing on July 2. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: The US doesn’t recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and won’t lift sanctions related to Moscow’s military incursion into Ukraine until the peninsula is returned, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

“We do not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea,” Sanders told reporters at the White House. US sanctions “will remain in place until Russia returns Crimea to the Ukraine,” adding that “we agree to disagree with Russia on that front.”

President Donald Trump has suggested that US recognition of Crimea as Russian territory could be on the table ahead of his July 16 summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We’re going to have to see,” Trump said on Friday when asked directly if the U.S. would accept Russia’s claim on the Black Sea peninsula.

Sanders would not say whether Crimea could be discussed at the summit.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that it’s “not the position of the United States” that Crimea is Russian territory.

“The president often says ‘we’ll see’ to show he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders about a range of issues and hear their perspective,” Bolton said. Pressed on whether the US position on Crimea could change, Bolton said “we’ll see.”

“The president makes the policy, I don’t make the policy,” he said.