Western nations should add sanctions against Russia as the current ones are not working well enough to resolve the Ukraine crisis, Lithuania’s foreign minister said on Saturday. The 28-nation European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The EU has so far kept a united front in keeping sanctions until a ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk in 2015 is implemented, despite criticism from some leaders of the bloc. The United States’ resolve, though, has sometimes come under doubt under new President Donald Trump.
Lithuania shares a border with Russia and the annexation of Crimea has raised worry in it and its Baltic neighbours over Russian aggression. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said sanctions remained the only leverage the West had to press Russia.
“If they are not working well, let’s add sanctions,” he said at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum when asked whether the current sanctions were working. “I believe we should but it is not so easy,” he added.
The diplomatic stand-off with Russia has dragged relations between Moscow and the West to a post-Cold War low. European Council President Donald Tusk urged Group of Seven leaders on Friday to stick to the sanctions policy.
Tusk was responding to comments by White House economic adviser Gary Cohn on Thursday that appeared to differ to those from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has repeatedly said sanctions must remain until Minsk is put in place. But speaking on Friday, Cohn said, “We’re not lowering our sanctions on Russia. If anything we would look to get tougher on Russia. The president wants to keep the sanctions in place and I think the president has made it clear how the Russians could have the sanctions lifted.”
Fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government forces first broke out in April 2014. About 10,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict and concerns are growing that the situation could once again rapidly deteriorate.