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The German chancellor has said lifting EU sanctions on Russia is off the table until a "real ceasefire" is achieved in Ukraine. The bloc introduced the measures after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that the European Union would maintain sanctions against Russia. Speaking during her tour of the Baltics, Merkel said that Moscow must progress toward fulfilling its commitment under a peace deal for east Ukraine before the EU would consider lifting the measures.
The sanctions — which were introduced in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula — target Russia's state finances, energy and arms sectors.
What did Merkel say?
Following talks with leaders from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, Merkel said:
What is the Minsk peace deal? German, French, Russian and Ukrainian leaders signed peace agreements in 2015. The Minsk peace accords envisage a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line and free elections. It has not yet been implemented.
Ongoing conflict: Fighting in eastern Ukraine began in April 2014. The conflict has killed 10,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
Anti-Russian sanctions: The EU on Thursday extended the measures — which impose asset freezes and travel restrictions on 155 people and 44 entities — for a further six months. They had been due to expire on Saturday. There are separate EU sanctions in place targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy, as well as restrictive measures preventing EU citizens and companies from investing in Crimea and Sevastopol.
Why was Merkel in Vilnius? Merkel was meeting with leaders from the Baltic states in the Lithuanian capital. Merkel said there had been consensus on a range of issues — including boosting an EU border force and dealing with migration to the bloc. The chancellor's comments about the sanctions on Russia come a day after an EU court rejected a request by eight Russian companies to cancel the measures, ruling they were reasonable and proportionate.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses German troops of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Rukla military base, Lithuania
Merkel thanks NATO soldiers: The chancellor also visited German troops at their barracks in the Lithuanian town of Rukla on Friday. "We are proud that you are here," Merkel told the Bundeswehr soldiers for their role in strengthening the North Atlantic Alliance's (NATO) eastern flank. Some 450 German soldiers lead a multinational task force in the Baltics.
Solving the EU's migration crisis: Merkel will meet with other EU leaders in Salzburg next week to further discuss Brexit and the migration crisis. Merkel has called migration a "significantly larger challenge to the future cohesion of the European Union than what we witnessed during the eurozone crisis."
kw/rt (AP, AFP)