12:55 Mar. 15, 2016
New imposition of sanctions against Russia is under a question
Italy and Hungary, two of the Kremlin's closest allies in Europe, said on Monday there could be no automatic extension of the European Union's sanctions against Russia, the most public sign yet of fraying unity on how to deal with Moscow.
Two years after the West imposed economic sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, the EU's resolve is at risk of ebbing because of the stalled Minsk peace process, diplomats say.
Some EU member states, such as Britain, the Baltic republics and Poland, argue that sanctions remain a necessary response to what they see as an expansionist Russia. Hungary, Italy and Greece stress its importance as a trade partner, a supplier of energy and a major player in attempts to end war in Syria.
However, the United States says lifting Western sanctions are conditional on Russia complying with the terms of the Minsk peace process. Moscow denies any military involvement.
"Today Russia faces a choice between the continuation of economically damaging sanctions and fully meeting its obligations under Minsk," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday in Paris.