EU sanctions against Russia failed to settle the conflict in Ukraine, but worsened relations between the West and Russia, and therefore, they must be lifted, Alfred Gaffal, the president of the Bavarian Industry Association (vbw), said on Monday in his interview with the Welt newspaper.

Europe, in general, and Germany, in particular, need Russia “in a long-term perspective as a political and economic partner,” despite countries of Eastern Europe still supporting the sanctions regime, Gaffal stressed.

“We need to return to sensible relations with Russia. The sanctions did not settle the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but worsened the political relations [between Europe and Russia] … It is time the sanctions were lifted,” Gaffal said, adding that 6,500 German and 1,800 Bavarian enterprises represented in Russia sustained heavy losses because of the sanctions, but remained in the country.

Relations between Russia and the West deteriorated in 2014 after Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. The European Union and the United States introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia has consistently denied allegations of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, stressing that it is not a party to the internal conflict, and pointing out that the policy of sanctions is counterproductive and can destabilize the region and the world.

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