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Poroshenko says 'no alternative' to Russia sanctions

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday there was no alternative to European Union sanctions to pressure Russia to stick to a ceasefire agreement.

[PARIS] Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday there was no alternative to European Union sanctions to pressure Russia to stick to a ceasefire agreement.

"Sanctions are the only instrument left... There is no alternative to that," Mr Poroshenko told French television ahead of a meeting with President Francois Hollande.

France on Monday called for EU leaders to have a "real debate" on the future of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, even though they are expected to be rolled over shortly.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said there was no question of lifting the sanctions as long as Russia fails to help implement the ceasefire accords in Ukraine, which were signed in Minsk in February 2015.

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At the same time, the 28-nation bloc could not simply keep renewing the sanctions automatically without proper discussion, he added, on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

"The conditions for ending the sanctions are not in place since the Minsk accords are neither respected nor implemented," Mr Ayrault said.

"What I want is that at the next EU leaders summit (on June 28-29)... we are not just satisfied with the automatic six-month rollover of the sanctions but that there is a real debate," he said.

That way, leaders can see if there has been any progress on resolving the conflict and what could be done to encourage a possible opening, he added.

EU officials were to discuss the six-month sanctions rollover on Tuesday, diplomatic sources told AFP last week.

Ministers were then to formally approve the decision without debate on Friday so as to avoid it coming up at next week's leaders summit, set to be dominated by the outcome of Thursday's British EU membership referendum, they said.

Mr Ayrault's remarks follow comments late last month by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that the EU should consider a "step-by-step" relaxation of the economic sanctions if there was progress on Ukraine.

The EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, blamed on pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions were controversial from the start, with several EU states such as Italy, Germany and Hungary lukewarm at best until the MH17 tragedy.

The EU last week rolled over for another year sanctions imposed after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The EU has also imposed a separate set of visa ban and asset freeze sanctions against individual Russian and Ukrainian figures for backing the separatist cause in early 2014. These measures run until September.

AFP

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