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EU is prepared to impose stricter sanctions on Russia – Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Moscow yesterday, after her meeting with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, that every serious violation of the fragile ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine will make Europe impose further sanctions against Russia over the support it provides to the separatists, European and US media report.

There is a direct link between sanctions and the adherence to the Minsk agreement, Ms Merkel stated, as reported by SZ and Le Figaro. More specifically, Ms Merkel underlined that this fragile ceasefire must be cemented, adding that if the Minsk agreement is violated to a serious degree, European leaders and the European Commission will be ready to impose additional sanctions. The chances for the truce in Eastern Ukraine to be respected are decreasing, mediafax.ro says.

EU sanctions are to expire in July 2015 and their extension requires a consensus of all 28 countries, Gazeta Wyborcza notes. EU HR Vice-President Federica Mogherini is quoted by Rian.ru as saying at a press conference that “the door of European cooperation” remains open for Russia if Russia respects international rules. “We hope that Russia will return to responsible behaviour, starting with implementation of the Minsk agreement,” Ms Mogherini said. In the US, President Barack Obama has extended sanctions against Russia for another year, Russia’s Kommersant reports.

The US sanctions were imposed in March 2014 after Crimea was incorporated into Russia. Mr Obama said that Russia’s Ukraine policy posed a national security threat to the US. Analysts say that the US President is sending his EU allies a clear message: Western pressure on Russia must be continued. As to Italian media such as Il Sole 24 Ore, they focus on Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s meeting with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

Italy has applied sanctions against Russia, but has always been in favour of dialogue over a truce in Ukraine, while being resolutely determined to protect international rules, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni says in an interview with La Stampa. Mr Renzi, Il Sole 24 Ore reports, underlined during his meeting with Mr Poroshenko that Western countries respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, but urged the country to respect the Minsk agreement on the autonomy of pro-Russia regions. Ukraine must form a real Ukrainian federation to safeguard territorial integrity, while giving pro-Russia regions more autonomy.

Mr Poroshenko called for further sanctions against Russia and for an actual and rigorous ceasefire, in compliance with the Minsk agreement. Mr Renzi confirmed that Western countries will support Ukraine’s economy, Il Sole 24 Ore further reports, while German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier explains, in an interview with Handelsblatt, that although the US, the European Union and Germany have all promised financial support, it is difficult to estimate how much support is needed by Ukraine’s ailing economy and what the country can do on its own through reforms.

Today, Mr Renzi is set to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, as well as the situation in Libya and terrorism. In an interview with La Stampa, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni says that today, UN Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino Leon, will propose a protocol of agreement on security and to form a government of national unity, as the legitimate Tobruk parliament does not control the whole country. The threat of terrorism has made a new round of negotiations possible, Paolo Gentiloni says. EuropeaUnion2015

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