09:48 Sep. 24, 2016
Moscow can reverse the ceasefire with a telephone call, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister says
Loosening the European Union's economic sanctions on Russia would wreck the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, because the measures are the West's only leverage over Moscow, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister said on Friday.
'The Minsk peace deal is under threat. If there are no sanctions, there is no way to pressure Russia to respect the process in any way,' Vadym Prystaiko said of the accord sealed in 2015 in the capital of Belarus.
Next month, EU leaders are set to discuss the sanctions on Russia's energy, financial and defense sectors, which were imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. Countries with closer ties to Russia, including Cyprus, Italy and Hungary, are pushing to lift some measures or even allow them to expire in January.
'For now, Russian-backed separatists have agreed to a ceasefire. But with one telephone call, Moscow can reverse the situation,' Prystaiko told Reuters.
The Minsk peace agreement, brokered by France and Germany and signed by Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, calls for a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists backed by Russia, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.