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State Department officials say the Biden administration is concerned over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to “institutionalize control” over Ukraine’s Kherson region.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Tuesday “we remain concerned about steps Russia’s taking to attempt to institutionalize control over sovereign Ukrainian territory, particularly in Ukraine’s Kherson region.”
“It’s a predictable part of the Russian playbook, which is why we are continuing to sound the alarm now, Price said.
“We will continue to spotlight Russia’s territorial designs in Ukraine, as well as its ongoing aggression. ”
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday shared footage of people in Melitopol applying for Russian passports.
According to the agency, Melitopol residents queue to apply for Russian citizenship.
Russia already has a program for fast-track naturalization of people living in the two regions of eastern Ukraine claimed by Russia-backed separatists.
Putin also issued an order last week to allow a fast track to Russian citizenship for people in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of Ukraine which are largely held by Russian forces.
At Tuesday’s press briefing, Price also addressed talks to restore Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers which have hit a deadlock.
WATCH: Russia advances in Severodonetsk as Ukraine tries to reinforce beleaguered troops
Hostilities have simmered as Iran accelerates its nuclear program far beyond the limits of the nuclear deal.
In a sign of those rising tensions, Iran’s Foreign Ministry sharply criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday over its quarterly report released the day before on Iran’s nuclear program.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh rebuked the report’s findings that Iran’s highly enriched uranium stockpile had increased by 18 times since the 2015 nuclear deal as “not fair and balanced.”
The U.N. nuclear watchdog also said that Iran has still failed to explain traces of uranium particles that IAEA inspectors found at former undeclared sites in the country – long a sore point between Iran and the agency despite a recent push for a resolution by June.
Khatibzadeh said the agency’s statements “did not reflect the reality of talks between Iran and the agency.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian addressed the stalled indirect negotiations with the United States over the collapsed nuclear deal, telling reporters he communicated Iranian concerns to Vice President Kamala Harris through a third party when they were in Munich earlier this year.
Iran has repeatedly demanded guarantees that no future president could unilaterally abandon the agreement, as former President Donald Trump did in 2018. The White House has said it cannot make such a commitment.
“We have been very clear that we believe that the concerns of the IAEA have to be resolved and they have to be resolved swiftly. ” Price said.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been widely condemned as an illegal act of aggression. Russian forces have been accused of killing civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and of repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure including hospitals and a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol that was being used as a shelter by hundreds of civilians. An investigation by The Associated Press found evidence that the March 16 bombing killed close to 600 people inside and outside the building.
Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, the AP and PBS series Frontline have verified 273 potential war crimes.
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