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Czech president speaks against new anti-Russian sanctions

PRAGUE, September 02. /ITAR-TASS/. A new package of sanctions against Russia should be adopted only if the West is able to prove claims that Russian troops are deployed in Ukraine, Czech President Milos Zeman said during his visit to the country’s parliament Tuesday.

“Sanctions will only be possible if it is unambiguously proven that Russia sent its combat troops to the east of Ukraine,” Zeman said. “Had the invasion occurred, I would support tougher sanctions. But if there was none, I would speak for no sanctions at all but for the start of talks resulting in a truce.”

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Tuesday the path of toughening sanctions against Russia is risky for Europe.

“We should act in such a manner so as to pay more attention to the interests of the Czech Republic and the European Union. I believe Europe should avoid harming itself by these sanctions,” Sobotka said.

He said “the biggest problem” is response measures Russia could adopt against EU countries. The premier said the Czech government will on Wednesday decide the issue of the country’s attitude toward a new package of anti-Russian sanctions planned by the EU.

At Saturday’s EU summit in Brussels, Sobotka criticized the already adopted sanctions against Moscow characterizing them as “ineffective.”

Russian officials and companies came under Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March because the West and Kiev refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia despite Moscow’s explanations that it was legal.

Moscow warned the West that the language of sanctions will have a boomerang effect.

The West announced new sectoral sanctions against Russia in late July over Moscow’s position on Ukrainian events, in particular, what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in mass protests in Ukraine’s war-torn southeast.

In response, Russia imposed on August 6 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the EU, the United States and Norway.

The banned products list includes cattle meat (fresh, chilled and refrigerated), pork (fresh, chilled and refrigerated), poultry meat and all poultry edible by-products, salted meat, pickled meat, dried meat, smoked meat, fish, clams and other water invertebrates, milk and dairy products, vegetables, edible roots and tuber crops.

The list also contains fruit and nuts, sausage and analogous meat products, meat by-products or blood, as well as products made of them, ready-to-eat products including cheeses and cottage-cheese based on vegetable fats.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed Western allegations that it could in any way be involved in protests in the southeast of Ukraine, which started after Crimea refused to recognize the authorities propelled to power during a coup in Ukraine in February and reunified with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.

Troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions are involved in fierce clashes as the Ukrainian armed forces are conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway territories, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums and now call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics.

During the military operation, conducted since mid-April, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s war-torn southeast.

A statement posted on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s official website on August 28 claimed Poroshenko canceled his visit to Turkey “due to sharp aggravation of the situation in the Donetsk Region, in particular in Amvrosiyevka and Starobeshevo, as Russian troops were actually brought into Ukraine.”

But Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Andrey Kelin said after a meeting of the organization’s Permanent Council that Russian servicemen and military hardware are not taking part in hostilities in Ukraine.

“We clearly stated that there is no participation of Russian military. We do not supply any hardware there,” Kelin said then.