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Minsk accords remain key to lifting of anti-Russian sanctions, says French diplomat

French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann believes "reciprocal steps are necessary from Russia", in particular, the settlement of the situation in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Februry 12./TASS/. The implementation of the Minsk accords remains a key to the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions and normalization of ties with the European Union, but the situation in Ukraine won’t change before the presidential election in Ukraine, French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann told TASS on Tuesday.

"In order to lift or ease sanctions, reciprocal steps are necessary from Russia, it is necessary to settle the situation in Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk accords," the diplomat said.

"The fact is that sanctions are not a goal in itself, sanctions must help us bring everybody to the negotiating table. In this case the responsibility is both with the Russian and Ukrainian sides," she added.

According to the ambassador, the situation with relations between the European Union and Russia will hardly change until the presidential election is held in Ukraine. "As to after it - let us wait and see," the diplomat said.

"The Kerch Strait incident and the arrest of Ukrainian sailors whose release we are seeking, has complicated the things," she said. "We hope this issue will be settled," the ambassador added.

Kerch Strait incident

On November 26, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, endorsed President Pyotr Poroshenko’s decree on imposing a 30-day martial law in the Vinnitsa, Lugansk, Nikolayevsk, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Chernigov, Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, as well as Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Sea of Azov. Initially, Poroshenko sought to impose martial law for 60 days, but this put into question holding the March presidential elections and sparked a public outcry.

The pretext for the decision to declare martial law was an incident in the Kerch Strait on November 25, when three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters and started performing dangerous maneuvers.

Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea. Three Ukrainian servicemen were slightly wounded and received medical assistance, and their lives are not under threat. A criminal case has been launched over the violation of Russia’s state border. Moscow slammed the incident as a provocation.