There is no reason to lift the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, as Moscow has not fulfilled all of its commitments under the Minsk peace plan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview published on Friday (19 August).
Merkel told the RedaktionsNetzwerks Deutschland (RND) that Russia had caused a major crisis by annexing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and with its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Europe had to react against this violation of basic principles,” Merkel said.
She added that she and French President Francois Hollande were working “with all one’s strength” to urge Ukraine and Russia to implement the Minsk ceasefire agreement despite all the difficulties.
“This is and remains the yardstick for the future of the sanctions,” Merkel said.
The EU agreed in June to extend energy, financial and defence sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine until the end of January next year.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other leading Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, have struck a more conciliatory tone by saying that the EU should gradually phase out sanctions against Russia if there is progress in the peace process.
But, a recent build-up of Russian military on Ukraine’s border with the Crimean region, which has been annexed by Moscow, could reflect “very bad intentions”, Ukraine’s UN envoy warned last Thursday (11 August) after the UN Security Council discussed the growing tensions.
Ukrainian UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the council that Russia had amassed more than 40,000 troops in Crimea, and on the Ukrainian border. “This is the last thing we would like to happen,” he told reporters.
Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, leading to EU sanctions. Russian naval and land forces have practiced swiftly moving military hardware and troops to annexed Crimea as part of a logistics exercise this week, foreshadowing much larger war games there next month, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday.
The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine gave their support to a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, following 17-hour long negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk on 12 February.
The four leaders committed to respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a joint declaration.
Western leaders are closely observing the implementation of the Minsk agreement.
On 2 March, European leaders said that they agreed that the OSCE needed a broader role as observers of the ceasefire, and weapons removal.
Ukraine has asked the EU to dispatch an EU-led Security and Defence (CSDP) mission to Donbas.