Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday warned the West against lifting sanctions on Russia as France pushes for rapprochement with Moscow.
But speaking on the sidelines of an annual forum in the capital Kiev, the 41-year-old leader told AFP that he had a “feeling” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready to improve ties with Ukraine.
Addressing the Yalta European Strategy (YES) forum, Zelensky said that some of Ukraine’s Western partners have considered lifting sanctions against Russia.
“Sometimes they think about lifting sanctions. You are losing money. Seriously?
“I am sorry but we are losing people,” Zelensky said, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Moscow-backed separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Essentially, sanctions are a tax needed to maintain world order. A peace tax, if you will. And you know in the civilised world it’s normal to pay taxes,” he said.
“Sanctions should remain” until peace was restored in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky added.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula following a national referendum and supported separatists in Ukraine’s industrial east.
In turn, the West has imposed sweeping economic sanctions targeting the Russian oil, defense and banking sectors as well as Russian officials over their alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
On Thursday, the European Union extended by six months sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials while economic penalties were extended in June.
French President Emmanuel Macron has in recent weeks pushed for a review of ties with Russia, indicating that more sanctions against Moscow were not in France’s interests.
In a keynote speech to French ambassadors in late August, Macron said: “The European continent will never be stable, will never be secure, if we don’t pacify and clarify our relations with Russia.”