A candidate for the post of US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has said that Russia's annexation of Crimea was illegal.
During the Senate hearings, Tillerson said that Russians had taken "territory that was not theirs". He also described Russian actions in eastern Ukraine as illegal.
"I would have recommended that the Ukraine had called its military assets that it had available, put them on the eastern border," Tillerson said, adding that the USA should have supplied Kyiv with weapons and offered air surveillance to Ukraine.
Tillerson said that the Russian leadership would have understood a "powerful response" such as a more solid supply of US military assets. He said it was the US administration's weak response after Russia's taking of Crimea that led to Russia coming across the border into eastern Ukraine.
During the election campaign, US President-elect Donald Trump made ambiguous statements about Crimea. In particular, he said that the residents of Crimea in a referendum favored joining Russia and their opinion should be taken into account.
On 13 December, Trump nominated Rex Tillerson for the post of secretary of state. As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had repeatedly visited Russia and maintained close contacts with the Russian leadership.
On several occasions, he has met President Vladimir Putin. The press often called Tillerson a "friend of Putin." He opposed the sanctions that the West imposed against Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of armed conflict in the east of Ukraine.