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U.S. ambassador to Ukraine: Geneva deal ’best chance’ to de-escalate crisis

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine said Sunday that a pact reached this past week to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine is the “best chance that we’ve got” to do so diplomatically.

Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt reiterated the U.S. and European Union view that there is not a military solution to the crisis and that it must be solved diplomatically.

“We’re convinced his is the best chance that we’ve got to achieve a diplomatic de-escalation of this crisis, and we’re working hard at it,” Pyatt said from Kiev on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Militants in at least a dozen cities in the east of the country have occupied buildings and seized weapons and armored vehicles. Pyatt said he believes that “Russia has influence over some of these groups” and hopes the country exercises that authority to try to implement the framework reached in Geneva.

The agreement reached this week in Geneva calls for all parties to stop violent acts and for the disarmament of illegal groups. The United States says about 40,000 Russian troops are currently on the Russian-Ukrainian border. NATO is also increasing its military presence on its eastern border. Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, told The Washington Post that it expects U.S. ground troops to be dispatched to his country.

“There is an apparent effort from outside to try to stir division, but I’m convinced that those who are trying to stimulate separatism, who are trying to preach violence, are not going to find resonance,” Pyatt said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the crisis is putting Ukraine on the brink of civil war.

Pyatt disputed this, saying that most Ukrainians “across the board” have a “desire to bring everyone together.” Pyatt said there are “obviously efforts from small isolated groups to stir division,” and characterized them as only “about a couple hundred of people.” Pyatt said they do not represent the whole of the country. “That’s not what I hear from most Ukrainians,” he said.

Pyatt said the United States and the E.U. want to see a politically stable Ukraine, and there “is no better answer to Russia” than Ukrainians voting in elections May 25.

Pyatt said there are reasons for unhappiness in the country, particularly economic problems in the eastern part of the country.

Ukraine’s military is woefully underarmed and without modern equipment and training, but Pyatt said the United States is not providing Ukraine armament, only support and non-lethal aid.

“Ukraine is outgunned,” he said. “But our efforts have been focused on diplomacy, focused on economic support.”

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