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HN: EU’s anti-Russian sanctions still meaningful

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Prague, June 22 (CTK) – The EU’s sanctions against Russia are still meaningful, Adam Cerny writes in Czech daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) yesterday, referring to Tuesday’s approval of the prolongation of the sanctions by EU states’ ambassadors, which the foreign ministers are expected to confirm later this week.
Several weeks ago, the prolongation of the sanctions, which the West imposed in reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea and support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine a couple of years ago, was still far from sure. Their meaning was openly challenged by the prime ministers of Hungary, Italy and Slovakia, and the German foreign minister spoke about their gradual lifting, Cerny writes.
Many expected a change in this respect after seeing EC President Jean-Claude Juncker attend the economic forum in St Petersburg last week, he writes.
Juncker, however, disappointed the hosts by saying the lifting of the sanctions is out of question unless all conditions of the Minsk agreements related to the east Ukrainian conflict are fulfilled, Cerny writes.
Juncker is well informed about the views of his partners in the EU member countries. That is why the EU’s unanimous decision to prolong the sanctions on Tuesday is no surprise, Cerny continues.
It is Moscow who may pretend being surprised and possibly also offended, he writes.
During all debates in Minsk, both in August 2014 and February 2015, Moscow denied supporting or influencing the Ukrainian separatists, let alone Russian soldiers’ involvement in the conflict. Such hypocrisy is comfortable, but in fact it prevents the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements and thus also the lifting of the sanctions, Cerny writes.
As an example he gives Minsk II’s Point 9 that supposes the Ukrainian government to resume its control of the state border. For this to happen, a pre-condition is the staging of free elections in the east of Ukraine, something that is impossible in the present chaotic situation in the region and unfeasible without Russia’s assistance, Cerny writes.
Since the Minsk agreements include more such points that are binding on the Kiev government but Moscow does not feel bound by them, eastern Ukraine has become another “frozen conflict,” similar to those in Moldova’s Transnistria, the north of Georgia and the Nagorno Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Cerny writes.
Russia welcomes such frozen conflicts as an instrument to foment and reduce tension according to its immediate needs, and as a useful “canvas to draw a dreadful enemy on,” Cerny writes.
The situation in Ukraine is a challenge to the West, including the EU and NATO, which tests its willingness to defend its common shared values, Cerny writes.
In April, U.S. President Barack Obama was unusually sincere when he said that Ukraine is not as important for Washington as to make it risk a war with Russia, Cerny writes.
The EU should insist on the anti-Russian sanctions to remain in force until all conditions of the Minsk agreements are met. Otherwise it would weaken itself because it would confirm Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opinion that he need not do anything but wait, Cerny writes in conclusion.

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