Usackas told journalists that the EU is interested in calling off sanctions, but a very positive reason - stabilization and de-escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine - is required for that.
The sanctions are not an end in itself and are not aimed against ordinary Russian citizens, he said, adding that Russia-EU relations were seeing progress at the level of cultural ties, business and border cooperation.
Usackas stressed that despite certain political differences, border cooperation between the Kaliningrad Region - Russia’s westernmost exclave on the Baltic Sea coast and neighboring European states is developing positively.
This year, the number of crossings of the region’s border with Poland exceeded 7.5 million. EU members’ consulates in Kaliningrad issued over 213,000 visas, including long-term.
Over the course of six years, the number of projects implemented in the framework of border cooperation exceeded 60; the European Commission plans to allocate €67 million for its further development for the next six years.
The ambassador said the new EU program Erasmus+ will allow 3,000 Russian students to take part in exchanges between Russian and EU higher educational establishments. This year, he said, €12 million was allocated for its implementation.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March after a coup in Ukraine in February.
The West announced new sectoral penalties against Russia in late July over Moscow’s position on Ukrainian events, in particular, what the West claimed was Russia’s alleged involvement in hostilities in Ukraine’s embattled east.
Moscow has repeatedly dismissed Western allegations that it could in any way be involved in hostilities in the east of Ukraine.
Fierce clashes between troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April, to regain control over the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics, have killed over 4,000 people, brought massive destruction and forced hundreds of thousands to flee Ukraine’s east.
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire at talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk. The ceasefire took effect the same day but has reportedly occasionally been violated.