Austrian leader Fischer slams EU-Russian sanctions on visit to Putin

Austria is in favor of removing sanctions imposed against Russia over the Ukraine conflict, Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Wednesday on an official visit to Moscow.

"I have always said that sanctions hurt both sides," Fischer said at a meeting with the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, according to state news agency TASS.

"It is important to develop a way to overcome these sanctions in the near future," Fischer was quoted as saying.

Later on Wednesday, Fischer was set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to discuss a wide range of issues on bilateral collaboration in economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres, according to a Kremlin statement.

"Special emphasis will be placed on European security, as Austria prepares to assume the OSCE chairmanship in 2017," the statement said, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is independently monitoring the Ukraine conflict.

Fischer, who has been Austria's president since 2004, will end his final term in July.

Russia has faced off against the European Union and other Western powers with tit-for-tat sanctions since Russia annexed a part of neighbouring Ukraine in early 2014.

Russia occupied and annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea region - the site of a major Russian naval base on the Black Sea - after Ukraine ousted its pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West.

Shortly after the annexation, a pro-Russian separatist rebellion erupted in Ukraine's two easternmost regions. More than 9,000 people have died in the ensuing conflict, according to estimates by the United Nations.

Kiev and many Western powers accuse Moscow of fuelling the conflict with supplies of weapons and troops for the separatists. Moscow has adamantly denied such claims.

Last update: Wed, 06/04/2016 - 13:01

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