(Vatican Radio) German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union should renew its sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and the Kremlin’s support for pro-Russian separatists that are fighting Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
Her views are shared by Kiev amid concerns over fresh ceasefire violations and the disappearance of a rights activist and other Ukrainians.
Merkel, who met Ukraine's president on Monday in Berlin, expressed concern about reports of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine. She urged the European Union to maintain sanctions against Russia as the West has accused Moscow of supporting pro-Russian separatists with weapons and troops. "You know that the sanctions have to be extended, because the Minsk peace agreement is not implemented to the foreseen process," she said. "And we believe that it would be good for all the parties involved for it [the agreement] to be implemented and thereby fulfill the requirements in order to lift the sanctions, but unfortunately we are not there yet," Merkel added.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agrees. He said Russia has recently been sending troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine, also known as Donbass, threatening the fragile peace deal. "It is terrible that after the Minsk [peace] agreement, we have passed one-and-a-half year and unfortunately we still face serious security problems on Donbass, which must have been cleared [in] the first place," he said.
"Regardless of our endeavours, Russia and its proxies do not observe the ceasefire," Poroshenko added. "Sanctions against Russia must stay in place until Russia and its proxies fully implement the Minsk Agreement and Russia gets out of Donbass, take their troops, take their weapons, and renew the borders," he said.
The cease-fire agreements aimed at ending the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists were signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in September 2014 and February last year.
More than 9,000 people have died in nearly two years of fighting in the east.
Additionally, Ukrainians have disappeared in the area, including prominent humanitarian activist Maryna Cherenkova who was reportedly detained over the weekend by separatist security forces in the eastern city of Donetsk.
Earlier pro-Russian separatists detained respected religious-studies professor Ihor Kozlovskiy. His relatives say he was taken from his home in Donetsk on January 28 and has not been heard from since.
While the EU was expected to discuss sanctions soon, the United States announced overnight that it has slapped sanctions on another five Russians for human rights violations under a 2012 U.S. law named for Russian whistle-blower and Sergei Magnitsky.
The Russian lawyer alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with a Russian government official to claim a fraudulent $230 million tax rebate. His death in prison in 2009 prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and spurred U.S. and European efforts to punish Russian officials complicit in human rights abuses.