Putin: Russia ready to lift sanctions first, if certain that EU will follow suit

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2016. © Mikhail Metzel / TASS
Russia could lift the sanctions it has imposed on the EU, but to make such a concession, it would need to be certain that reciprocal measures would follow and that it wouldn’t be “once again deceived” by its Western partners, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday, Putin announced that Moscow might lift the sanctions that were put in place as a counter-measure to anti-Russia restrictions.

We must be sure that these unilateral measures taken by Russia will be followed by reciprocal steps, which won’t be – as one famous classic has said – a one step forward, two steps back,” he added, referring to a well-known phrase coined by Vladimir Lenin.

Putin was speaking at a press-conference following his talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The Italian PM, in turn, has announced that he will urge his European colleagues in the 28-member bloc to thoroughly discuss their next move with regard to anti-Russia sanctions.

The restrictive measures should not be prolonged automatically, Renzi said at SPIEF, adding that a debate on the issue is needed.

Putin also talked about how resolving the Ukrainian conflict could lead Russia to lift anti-EU sanctions.

If at some stage we see that almost everything [to resolve the Ukrainian crisis] has been fulfilled, then we will be ready to make the first step, including [sorting out] various restrictions in the sphere of trade and economics,” he said.

Yet, Russia’s European partners should not hold Moscow solely responsible for fulfilling the Minsk agreements on the peace process in Ukraine, the state leader pointed out, “especially regarding those issues that are beyond our competence.”

The West should be working with its “allies” in Kiev, “if they really wish the Ukrainian people well,” Putin added, saying that direct dialogue between the parties to the conflict should be promoted.