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US Ambassador to the UN condemns Russian actions in Ukraine

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has sent a stern warning to Moscow as renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine intensifies. Her message comes amid a flurry of criticism over the Trump Administration's policy toward Russia.

Haley used her first appearance at the UN Security Council on Thursday to speak out against Moscow's alleged role in ongoing fighting in Ukraine, as critics of President Donald Trump accused the new administration of sidling up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Haley said that it was "unfortunate" that she had to use her first public appearance at the Council to criticize Russia over its "aggressive actions" but warned that escalating violence was endangering thousands of civilians.

"We do want to better our relations with Russia," she said. "However the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnations of Russian actions."

Critics in the US have lashed out over the Trump Administration's perceived closeness to Moscow. Newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, has close associations with Putin and has openly opposed sanctions levelled against Moscow. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, meanwhile, was investigated for calls he made to Russia's ambassador to the US.

UN-Botschfterin Nikki Haley UN-Generalsekretär Antonio Guterres (picture alliance/Pacific Press/A. Lohr-Jones)

Haley seen handing her credentials to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Sanctions will be retained

Haley's comments come in response to renewed fighting between government forces and Moscow-backed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine, which has provoked concerns of a growing humanitarian crisis in the Donbass region of Ukraine. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which began in the wake of the 2014 revolution that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, a close ally of Russia.

At least 13 people have been killed in the latest bout of violence, while tens of thousands have been left without heat or water in freezing conditions. Ukraine's foreign ministry accused Russia of violating the ceasefire agreement signed last year, while Moscow said Ukraine had launched an attack on rebels on Monday.

Haley said that Washington would maintain sanctions placed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea until it "returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine." She also said that the US "stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military intervention."

Russland Putin überreicht Orden der Freundschaft an Tillerson (picture alliance/dpa/K. Mikhail)

Tillerson (right) received the Order of Friendship from Putin (left) in 2013

Iran also under fire

The new UN ambassador also sounded alarm over Iran's recent missile test, accusing Tehran of trying to convince the world that "they are being nice."

"The United States is not naive. We are not going to stand by. You will see us call them out," Haley said.

Iran confirmed on Wednesday that it had fired the missile but denied it violated the stipulations of the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and several international powers reached in 2015.

blc/jm (AP, AFP)

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