Putin seeking sanctions dropped against Russia

being sworn in for a fourth term, said the restrictions were “harmful for everyone — those who initiated them and those who are targeted by them”.

The European Union, US and other Western allies imposed a slew of sanctions against Moscow over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine who are fighting the government.

The sanctions, coupled with a global drop in oil prices, contributed to Russia’s two-year recession but there are signs of recovery and Mr Putin said Moscow and the EU would benefit from resuming full-scale cooperation.

The Russian president was speaking after talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen.

He then had meetings with conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, whose nationalist Freedom Party entered the government in December as the junior coalition partner.

Mr Strache — whose party has ties with the main Kremlin party, United Russia — called for the EU to lift sanctions against Russia at the weekend.

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Van der Bellen
Vladimir Putin and Alexander Van der Bellen

Mr Van der Bellen said: “Austria has always strived to contribute to reducing tensions and we will do so now and in the future.

“But on sanctions, Austria acts and will act in harmony with the European Union.”

Austria, one of the few EU states that did not expel Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury spot poisoning scandal, takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency for six months in July.

Vladimir Putin and Karin Kneissl
Vladimir Putin and Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl

Mr Putin’s sixth official visit to the country marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Soviet gas deliveries to the country.

Before arriving in Vienna the Russian leader rejected claims Russia was trying to disrupt EU cohesion, saying it was in his country’s interests for the bloc to remain “united and prosperous”.

He said: “We have an interest in an EU that’s united and prosperous, since the EU is our most important commercial and economic partner,

“The more problems at the heart of the EU, the more risks and problems there are for us. We need to build cooperation with the EU.”

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