The Minsk II ceasefire must be respected by both Russia and Ukraine if sanctions against Moscow are to be lifted, said a German lawmaker on Monday, according to Tass, a pro-Russian news site. While Germany has been a leader in imposing sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict, Berlin has been concerned about the knock-on effect of sanctions on its $105 billion bilateral trade with Russia, which has steadily decreased as sanctions and the falling price of oil take a toll on the Russian economy.
"We in Germany would like the political foundation for the sanctions to go as soon as possible and the sanctions themselves become a thing of the past. But it is clear that for the sanctions to be lifted, the Minsk Accords need to be implemented," said Bernhard Kaster, chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany faction in the Bundestag -- a legislative body in Germany -- and head of the Russia-Germany parliamentary group, told journalists in Novosibirsk, Russia.
Kaster's comments, while not representative of the German government, do echo much of what German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has said in recent months. Merkel has been forced to deal with a complex situation in Berlin where many members of her own party are wary about pushing Russia too hard, while businesses have lobbied that Russian sanctions will hurt German exports in the long term.
"The goal was never to push Russia politically and economically into chaos," said Germany's deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in an interview with German newspaper Bild Am Sonntag in January. "Whoever wants that will provoke a much more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe," he said, adding that the aim of the sanctions so far was to bring Russia back into negotiations."
"We want to help solve the conflict in Ukraine, not to force Russia to its knees," he added.
Kaster said sanctions were still the best way to solve international disputes and to counter violence, as seen in the contested region of Donbas in eastern Ukraine. He, along with a trade delegation from the German parliament, visited the Chkalov Aircraft Factory in Novosibirsk -- which uses German-based manufacturers in the production of its Sukhoi super jet -- and met Russian counterparts to discuss trade between the two countries.
"We are going through troubled political times, exactly the times when talks should be maintained. This manufacturer works in close contact with German producers," Kaster said.
According to Sergey Smirnov, director of the Chkalov Aircraft Factory, 80 percent of the machines and other equipment used in the production process are made in Germany.