| BRATISLAVA, Sept 17
BRATISLAVA, Sept 17 Ukraine is doing less than
Russia to meet its obligations under the Minsk agreement,
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Saturday, stepping
up calls for the European Union to end sanctions against Moscow.
Fico said sanctions have been ineffective while harming
European Union and member Slovakia's economic interests. But
added he would respect EU solidarity on the issue.
"When speaking about the implementation of the Minsk
agreement, it needs to be said clearly that both parties are
violating it. Actually, if we were to do an inventory of how
Ukraine is meeting it, you would have to say Ukraine is meeting
it even less than Russia," Fico told Reuters in an interview.
"With the Minsk agreement (to bring peace in Ukraine), it is
necessary to take stock. It is not true that Ukraine is the good
guy and Russia is the bad guy," he said.
The EU imposed energy, financial and defence sanctions on
Moscow after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and agreed in
June to extend them until the end of January.
German leader Angela Merkel said last month there was no
reason to lift sanctions as Russia has not fulfilled its
commitments under the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the
conflict in eastern Ukraine where Kiev and the West say Russia
is arming and supporting separatist rebels.
Fico has repeatedly called for the end of sanctions against
Russia, most recently after meeting President Vladimir Putin in
Moscow in August.
"The sanctions have not changed anything in Russia's
attitude," he said on Saturday.
"Sanctions are harming the EU and Russia and they help the
United States. I reject them but at the same time I won't break
the unity of the EU on that," he added.
Slovakia holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of
The central European country imports almost all its gas and
oil from Russia, as well as nuclear fuel to generate two power
plants. It exports cars to Russia, though these are just a
fraction of its exports to the EU.
Some neighbouring countries have also questioned the use of
sanctions on Russia. Hungary has taken a similar line as
Slovakia. Czech President Milos Zeman has also repeatedly called
for ending sanctions.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)