15:59 Jun. 16, 2016
Former French President attends International Economic Forum in Russia
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the sanctions against Russia should be lifted, but Moscow has to take this step first. He said this during a speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, on June 16.
"I'm one of those who thinks that sanctions need to be lifted. We have more than enough problems beside this and we can't afford to struggle. The strongest has to offer a hand first. And the strongest is Russia and President Putin", Reuters quoted Sarkozy as saying.
However, the former French president opposed idea of cancelling visas between Russia and the EU. According to him, the time is not right for promising a no-visa regime.
Head of Russia's Ministry of Economic Development Alexander Ulyukayev said on the sidelines of the forum that Russia is not considering an option to be the first to lift the sanctions.
European Commission Head Jean-Claude Juncker, who also attended the St. Petersburg Forum, said E.U.-Russia relations can only improve if Ukraine is allowed to decide its own future.
Jean-Claude Juncker 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."
The one-year sanctions were initially imposed on July 31, 2014, in response to Russia's aggression in Eastern Ukraine. On 22 June 2015, the E.U. Council extended the sanctions for another six months - until January 31, 2016. The MEPs prolonged the sanctions because Russia had not fully implemented the Minsk agreements.
The US first imposed sanctions on Russia in March 2014 which included travel bans and asset freezes against individuals who "asserted government authority" in Crimea. In May 2016 US President Barack Obama extended a series of sanctions against Russia for another year over its military intervention in Ukraine.
The E.U. and the U.S. claim to see no progress in implementing the Minsk agreement.