Firm EU Russia Stance Needed for Peace, Belobradek Says

The European Union should continue its firm stance against Russia to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine de-escalates, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek said.

The EU and the U.S. have imposed restrictions on Russian officials and companies after the country annexed Crimea in March, sparking fierce fighting among pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces. At least 3,660 people have been killed during the conflict, the United Nations estimates.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian leader Vladimir Putin sought to shore up a six-week truce during Milan talks last week amid continuing skirmishes between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

“The sanctions proved to be efficient as we achieved a cease-fire and Russia started to take things seriously,” Belobradek said in an Oct. 17 interview in his Prague office. “But the further development is quite unclear. There’s not much room to give in and appease Russia and we have to continue to stand our ground.”

The Czech Republic, once a communist country that is now a member of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has tried to juggle its economic and security concerns as Europe crafted measures against Russia. Czech industrial unions have urged the cabinet to minimize the impact of sanctions, while the opposition said the stance against Russia was weak.

“We have never traded our business interests for other principles,” Belobradek said. “Russia has a huge economic potential, but this could never justify neglecting of any fundamental principles.”

Czech companies haven’t been significantly affected by sanctions against Russia so far and no company has filed for bankruptcy because of the restrictions, he said.

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