Russia sanctions to remain until Minsk deal fully implemented: US

US Secretary of State John Kerry says economic sanctions against Russia will continue as long as Moscow does not implement all aspects of the Ukraine peace agreement reached a year ago in Minsk, Belarus.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday, Kerry said, “Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions.”

“Sanctions are never an end in and of themselves,” the top US diplomat admitted. “But we shouldn’t forget why they were imposed in the first place: to stand up for Ukraine’s fundamental rights — its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“Put plainly, Russia can prove by its actions that it will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, just as it insists on respect for its own,” he added.

Ukraine’s warring sides reached a deal, dubbed Minsk II, at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February 2015.

The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, a pullout of heavy weapons and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of the year. Russia says the government in Kiev and its Western allies have twisted the peace deal.

Russia has been targeted by a series of sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union for allegations that Moscow is arming and supporting pro-Russian forces fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin, however, calls the accusation “groundless”.

Kerry said that for the sanctions to be lifted, Russia must support free and international-monitored elections in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

“The path to sanctions relief is clear: withdraw weapons and troops from Donbass, ensure that all Ukrainian hostages are returned, allow full humanitarian access to occupied territories, support free, fair, and internationally-monitored elections in Donbass under Ukrainian law, and restore Ukraine’s control of its side of the international border,” he said.

The United States and its allies have accused Russia of deploying troops and military equipment to the Donbass region since the beginning of the conflict about two years ago.

Kerry urged the European governments to maintain sanctions against Moscow for as long as they are needed, and praised them for “showing resolve and common purpose in the face of Russia’s repeated aggression.”

“I am confident that Europe and the United States will continue to stand united — both in sustaining sanctions for as long as they are necessary and providing needed assistance to Ukraine,” he stated.

By Press TV