Angela Merkel said that there was no reason to lift sanctions against Russia, as the Kremlin has not fulfilled all of its commitments under the Minsk peace agreement. She said that Russia had triggered a major crisis by annexing Crimea in 2014 and by its support for separatists in the Donbas region. “Europe had to react against this violation of basic principles,” Chancellor Merkel said. She also reassured that herself and French President Francois Hollande were working hard to persuade both Russia and Ukraine to implement the Minsk ceasefire despite all difficulties. “This is and remains the yardstick for the future of the sanctions,” Mrs Merkel said.
In June, the EU agreed to extend sanctions to include energy, finance and defense but some policy makers, and most notably German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other leading German Social Democrats, have been promoting a milder approach to Russia by saying that the EU should gradually phase out the punitive measures if there is some progress in the peace talks. However, Ukraine’s UN envoy said that there had recently been a military build-up of Russian army on the country’s Eastern border, which could reflect “very bad intentions“. Ukrainian UN Ambassador, Volodymyr Yelchenko, said that Russia had amassed more than 40,000 troops in the region and on the Ukrainian border.
EU’s sanctions against Russia include asset freezes and visa bans that apply to 149 persons while 37 entities are subject to a freeze of their assets in the bloc. This includes persons and entities responsible for actions against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, persons providing support to or benefitting Russian decision-makers and 13 entities in Crimea and Sevastopol that were confiscated or that have benefitted from a transfer of ownership contrary to Ukrainian law.