Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would look into recognizing Crimea as a Russian territory should he be elected president in November.
Trump responded to a question about Crimea and Russia at a news conference Wednesday, saying that he "would be looking into" recognizing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula as a Russian territory and lifting sanctions on Russian entities resulting from the country’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, Politico reported.
Trump has consistently come under scrutiny for his complimentary statements on the campaign trail about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his loyalists’ ties to Russia.
Moscow was slapped with international sanctions over its annexation of Crimea in March 2014, which occurred after a revolution toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. The United States and the European Union have refused to recognize the annexation.
The crisis in Ukraine has persisted, as pro-Russian separatists have continued to fight Ukrainian soldiers. Violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine has surged in recent months despite a ceasefire deal brokered early last year.
Trump’s controversial foreign policy positions, particularly those relating to Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have come under fire from some Republicans. Trump was widely scrutinized last week after telling the New York Times in an interview that he would only come to the aid of a NATO ally invaded by Russia if the member country was meeting its defense spending obligations with the alliance.
Trump, who has described Putin as a strong leader, also told the Times that he would "get along very well" with the Russian president if elected to the White House.
One of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, has ties to Russian gas giant Gazprom, and another, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has advocated for closer U.S.-Russia relations. Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort also worked for Viktor Yanukovych.