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Tiller­son, min­is­ter ratchet up ten­sions

VI­ENNA – The top diplo­mats from the United States and Rus­sia sat yards from each other at a se­cu­rity con­fer­ence here Thurs­day in Vi­enna and lobbed broad­sides that were sharply at odds with the tone of Pres­i­dent Trump and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s meet­ing last month.

“We will never ac­cept Rus­sia’s oc­cu­pa­tion and at­tempted an­nex­a­tion of Crimea,” Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son vowed in his open­ing re­marks at the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity Co-op­er­a­tion in Europe. Rus­sia is “arm­ing, lead­ing, train­ing and fight­ing along­side anti-gov­ern­ment forces” in East­ern Ukraine, Tiller­son added.

Mo­ments ear­lier, Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sergey Lavrov, gave such a rapid-fire list of griev­ances – com­plain­ing about the grow­ing ex­pan­sion of NATO and the West’s in­creas­ing lim­its on Rus­sian-language jour­nal­ists, for ex­am­ple – that his in­ter­preter could barely keep up.

“We’ve reached an ab­so­lute low point re­gard­ing con­fi­dence be­tween the main play­ers,” the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the se­cu­rity fo­rum, Thomas Greminger, told re­porters at the start of the con­clave.

Whether Tiller­son’s tough stance on Rus­sia is in keep­ing with Trump’s of­ten-stated wish to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia is un­clear.

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