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article imageEU firm on Russia sanctions over Ukraine: Merkel  

By AFP     Sep 14, 2018 in Politics

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that the European Union would maintain sanctions against Russia until Moscow makes progress on fulfilling its commitments under a peace plan for east Ukraine.

"Before the Minsk agreement has been implemented or progress has been made in that regard, we will not consider lifting sanctions on Russia," Merkel told reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Berlin and Moscow, along with Paris, signed peace agreements in the Belarussian capital Minsk in 2015 intended to put an end to a conflict that has left more than 10,000 dead since it began in April 2014.

But Merkel said that the talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, known as the Normandy format, "may not have progressed as much as we would have wished them to".

"Peace and reinstating the territorial integrity of Ukraine continue to be important topics for all of us here," she added.

Merkel spoke a day after an EU court rejected a bid by eight Russian companies to cancel sanctions, ruling that the measures were reasonable and proportionate.

Separately, the European Council, which groups the bloc's 28 member states, on Thursday extended sanctions against 155 people and 44 entities, which include businesses, organisations and political parties.

The EU introduced the sanctions as part of measures to punish the Kremlin for the annexation of Crimea and for its support for pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Merkel said there was consensus on a wide range of EU issues, notably boosting an EU border force to tackle migration, following Friday's talks with leaders from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

A Ukrainian soldier shoots a machine gun during night combat with Russia-backed separatists in the D...
A Ukrainian soldier shoots a machine gun during night combat with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on September 13
Anatolii STEPANOV, AFP

She again defended controversial plans for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline through the Baltic Sea to bring Russian natural gas to Germany.

But the chancellor also vowed to work to safeguard Ukraine's role as a transit route for gas, saying that "we are engaging in talks about that".

However, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite called the pipeline "a geopolitical project" that may boost unwanted Russian influence.

Similar fears have previously been voiced by Poland and other eastern member states.

The Baltic route allows Germany and other European countries to avoid gas piped through Ukraine. Russia has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, creating knock-on effects in the EU.

Merkel and Grybauskaite were to meet German troops who lead a NATO battalion in Lithuania later Friday.

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