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MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. Russian State Duma’s International Affairs Committee chairman Alexey Pushkov has said Wednesday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is personally responsible for the decision to extend European Union’s sanctions against Russia.
"I do not see any real possibilities to improve relations with the United States. The relations will remain very difficult. The United States will cooperate with us only in those spheres where they have no other options. The situation with Europe is somewhat different though one should not underestimate US influence on Europe, on Germany in particular, and on Angela Merkel as well," Pushkov told a press conference in Moscow.
"If not for Merkel’s position, I think EU could have already moved maybe not to lifting sanctions altogether, but at least to easing them," Pushkov noted. Merkel’s tough position on this issue is connected with American influence on Germany, he added. "That is why I think that if there are improvement in relations with Europe in the future, it will only happen in separate spheres," the lawmaker said.
He reminded that Germany expressed interest in the Nord Stream-2 project. "This is the choice in favor of energy cooperation with Russia though Poland and most of East Europe spoke against it. In cases where arguments are too large to be ignored, EU will cooperate with us. In cases where there are no such arguments, it will remain on the same positions," Pushkov concluded.
The European Union (EU) will try to review sanctions against Russia in spring, he noted. "I can assume that (they) will start looking more actively for possibilities to review sanctions against Russia in spring, and I hope that it will lead to results in summer," Pushkov said. "Sanctions were adopted (at the end of 2015) in the situation of serious disagreements despite seeming unanimity," the lawmaker said. "I think that these disagreements will only grow by summer 2016," he added.
On December 21 the Council of the European Union formally extended sanctions against Russia by six months, thus endorsing the decision agreed by the envoys of the 28 EU member-countries on December 18. The sanctions against Russia were extended until July 31, 2016. The EU leaders initially linked the duration of sanctions to the complete implementation of the Minsk Agreements that expire on 31 December 2015. "However, since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by 31 December 2015, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council continues its assessment of progress in implementation," EU said in a statement.