: EUobserver: Juncker defends E.U. sanctions at Russia forum

15:15 Jun. 16, 2016

EUobserver: Juncker defends E.U. sanctions at Russia forum

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on at the opening of the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Getty Images)

"Full implementation of Minsk is the only way to begin our conversation with Russia"

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has said E.U.-Russia relations can only improve if Ukraine is allowed to decide its own future. Juncker spoke at the opening of an economic forum in St Petersburg on Thursday, 16 June.

He said the E.U. is "united" on maintaining economic sanctions on Russia until it complies with the Minsk peace deal on Ukraine, which says "foreign", meaning Russian, troops must leave Ukraine and that Russia must hand back control of Ukraine's border.

"If our relationship today is troubled and marked by mistrust, it is not broken beyond repair. We need to mend it and I believe we can, but our path must begin with Ukraine," he said.

"The next step is clear: full implementation of the [Minsk] agreements. No more, no less. This is the only way to begin our conversation, and the only way to lift the economic sanctions that have been imposed."

Read also Sanctions should be "gradually lifted" if Russia progresses in Minsk - Steinmeier

He said Russia's actions had "shaken the very principles of the European security order".

"Each sovereign nation must be free to choose its relations with its neighbours," Juncker added.

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