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Austrian president deems EU’s further sanctions against Russia as unnecessary

“I believe it is a false and even damaging point of view that the sanctions can be toughened to the extent, when Russia is weak,” Heinz Fischer said

VIENNA, December 29. /TASS/. European Union’s possible further sanctions in regard to Russia may be a ‘foolish and damaging’ step, Austrian President Heinz Fischer said in an interview with APA news agency.

“I believe it is a false and even damaging point of view that the sanctions [against Russia] can be toughened to the extent, when Russia is weak and can be subjected to the desired [outside] political goals,” Fischer said.

According to the Austrian president, “the Russian economy has a certain reserve of durability.”

“However, sanctions against it [Russia] became a tangible problem for the country and remain being such,” Fischer said adding that “the grave economic crisis in Russia is capable of creating more problems than it is capable of solving.”

The West started imposing sanctions on Russia since March 2014 over the events in Ukraine. First, an early EU summit stalled the talks on a visa-free regime and a new base agreement on Russia-EU cooperation. Further on, the sanctions were grouped into three categories - personal, corporate and sectoral.

By the beginning of September, some 420 Russian individuals and 143 companies had been put on the sanction lists of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and Norway.

The sectoral sanctions imposed for a term of one year include an embargo on the supply of arms to Russia and the importation of Russian weapons and related materials, a ban on the delivery of dual-purpose products and technologies to Russia, as well as innovative technologies for Russia’s oil extracting industry.

In mid-September, the European Union published new sanctions against Russia in its official journal.

Russia’s Economic Development Ministry unveiled earlier this month its updated macroeconomic forecast based on the assumption that western sanctions against Russia would last throughout 2015. The previous forecast presumed that the sanctions would be lifted in mid-2015.

Owing to the western sanctions, a fall in world oil prices and investor uncertainty, Russia’s Economic Development Ministry expects the country’s GDP to fall by 0.8% in 2015 as compared with its growth by 1.2% in the previous forecast.

On EU influence in Ukraine-Russia relations

The European Union a year earlier overestimated its suggestion to Kiev regarding the association agreement, Austria’s President Heinz Fischer said.

“Ukraine should have been offered options to develop partner relations both with Europe and with Russia. Brussels, apparently, has overestimated the appeal of its association offering if compared with another option - the offering from Russia,” he said. “Brussels was sure it could be sufficient simply to lay a draft agreement on the table and it even presented additional requirements to Kiev.”

“And only last minute was it clear the idea was a real challenge for Ukraine — to accept the suggestion from the EU, which was more profitable long-term” or the “suggestion worth many billions” which came from Russia and “which suited more Ukraine’s demands as of autumn of 2013,” the president said.

He said current relations between Russia and the West could not be called a new Сold war.

“For me, the events in Ukraine mean a major conflict, but I cannot see reasons for using here the term of “cold war”,” Fischer said. “Europe and the others should apply every effort to avoid any war, including a “cold” one, as its danger and negative potential cannot be overestimated.”

“It would not be right from the historic point of view to claim the current conflict has emerged from only mistakes made by the Russian side while Europe and other parties have made no mistakes whatsoever,” the Austrian president said.