US Vice President Mike Pence walks with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium, 20 February 2017 Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Russia will continue to be held to account over its invasion of Crimea and to honour ceasefire agreements in Ukraine, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday.

"While the US will continue to hold Russia to account, we will also search in new ways for common ground," Pence said on a visit to the European Council in Brussels on 20 February. President Donald Trump believes, Pence said, "it can be found."

Pence spoke during a joint press conference with the council's President Donald Tusk. He said the US "demand that Russia honour the Minsk agreements," which seek a ceasefire between Russian-backed rebel factions and the Ukrainian military battling over the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.

The US vice president urged "both sides to abide by the ceasefire that was scheduled to begin today." Renewal of the ceasefire was agreed last weekend after violence in the conflict has grown since January.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected suggestions it should return control of Crimea to Ukraine last Wednesday (15 February). "We're not returning our territory. Crimea is part of the Russian Federation," she told reporters during a press conference.

Pence said on Monday the US will "continue to support efforts in Poland and the Baltics" to shore up Nato military defences there. When the US and Europe are prosperous, he said, "we advance the peace and prosperity of all the world." America shares the "same values and same purpose" as Europe, Pence said.

Pence is also meeting with members of the Nato western defence alliance and met with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission on Monday. Trump's vice president is just one of three of his top cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who have been travelling Europe hold meetings with Nato and top European officials.

In a reversal of statements their boss has made, each of them pledged solidarity with Europe. Just before his inauguration on 20 January, Trump called Nato "obsolete" because it was designed many, many years ago" and countries aren't paying their fair share. He also said the EU is "basically a vehicle for Germany" and more countries will leave the Union like Britain. He said Brexit will "end up being a great thing."

Yet Pence said that the US and Europe "must be strong and united in our efforts to confront threats to Europe's security and stability," citing increased threats from Russia. "We are separated by an ocean," he said, "but we are joined by a common heritage."