Berlin (dpa) – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said sanctions against Russia should remain in place after a state premier from her own party met with President Vladimir Putin and called for a change of course. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Chancellor Angela Merkel as CDU leader, said in an interview published on Saturday that it would be up to Russia to step back from interfering in Ukraine first. “The economic sanctions are a reaction to the Russian government’s violations of international law in Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” she told the German daily Bild. “As long as nothing changes in Russia’s behaviour there, there is no room for changing economic cooperation.”
Michael Kretschmer, the CDU premier of the eastern state of Saxony, had called for an end to the sanctions ahead of a meeting with Putin at a conference in St Petersburg. “Russia is a strategic partner. For a better relationship, we need an end to the sanctions,” he said. The meeting and comments, made at a conference also attended by two German ministers on Friday, drew criticism for blurring the country’s official position. Kretschmer on Saturday stuck to his guns, saying that those who were now wagging their fingers at him should realize that the German states that once composed former East Germany had their own opinions on the topic. Kretschmer also added that he was leading the debate with a “huge, positive sense of closeness to Russia and its people.”
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who attended the conference, also reiterated that sanctions would remain in place “as long as the reasons for their initial existence remain.” Sanctions were imposed by the European Union in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. They include an arms embargo, trade sanctions and restrictions on travel for more than 100 Russian officials.