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'The sanctions [against Russia] must be lifted,' says French president

"The sanctions must be lifted if there is progress" in peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, French President Francois Hollande told France Inter radio Monday.

By
JC Finley
French President Francois Hollande (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama, pictured in June 2014. UPI/David Silpa
French President Francois Hollande (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama, pictured in June 2014. UPI/David Silpa | License Photo

PARIS, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- France will seek an easing of sanctions against Russia when there is progress with the Ukraine peace talks, French President Francois Hollande said Monday.

"The sanctions must be lifted if there is progress," Hollande told France Inter radio Monday. "If there is no progress the sanctions will stay in place."

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Russia has been accused by Ukraine and the West of inciting unrest in eastern Ukraine, and supplying both military equipment and personnel to the rebels in their battle against the Ukrainian government. The European Union and United States have imposed successive sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression toward Ukraine.

Hollande did not specify which sanctions he would support lifting.

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Russia has denied any wrong-doing.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has criticized the West for its "war of sanctions," warning that "Russia retaliates." In mid-December, Lavrov chastised the U.S. Congress for passing the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, calling additional sanctions "hostile."

Sanctions and a decline in the price of oil have significantly impacted Russia's economy, pushing it toward the brink of recession.

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"If Russia has a crisis, it is not necessarily good for Europe," Hollande said Monday. "I'm not for the policy of attaining goals by making things worse," he noted, adding that once there is evident progress in the peace talks, "I think that sanctions must stop."

Franco-Russian relations were hurt November when the French government halted delivery of Mistral-class warships that had been purchased by Russia under a $1.6 billion contract. The cause for suspension of delivery was Russian aggression in Ukraine.

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