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Russia sanctions could be lifted if it meets Ukraine commitments: French PM

Russia sanctions could be lifted if it meets Ukraine commitments: French PM Russia sanctions could be lifted if it meets Ukraine commitments: French PM

Sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis could be lifted if Moscow fulfils commitments it made to help resolve the conflict, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday, AFP reports.

"We hope that sanctions against Russia may be lifted, but it must fulfil its part of the contract... which it signed in the context of the Minsk accords," he said.

The Minsk peace talks earlier this year, brokered by France and Germany, aimed to help bring an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has pitted government forces against pro-Russian rebels and left more than 8,000 people dead.

The agreement reached in the Belarusian capital required both sides to immediately pull back their heavy weapons from the 500-kilometre (300-mile) front -- a withdrawal that has not been fully enforced.

The 19-month conflict plunged ties between Russia and the West to post Cold War lows as Moscow was accused of sending troops and weapons to support the rebels and hit with heavy sanctions. Moscow denies the claims.

President Francois Hollande is to travel to Russia on Thursday as part of a hectic diplomatic tour to drum up support for a global coalition to destroy the Islamic State group.

"We are conscious of the role and place of Russia in the world, in Europe and in our relationship, which is historic," Valls said.

The French PM's remarks -- his clearest hint to date that Russian sanctions could be eased -- come as tensions between Moscow and Kiev ratcheted up.

On Wednesday Ukraine announced it was to stop buying gas from its giant neighbour and banned all Russian airlines from crossing its airspace, in the latest escalation between the two neighbours.

The announcement by Kiev's pro-Western government came only moments after Russia announced plans to halt gas shipments to Ukraine starting Thursday.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of orchestrating and supporting the pro-Russian revolt in reprisal for the ousting last year of Kiev's Kremlin-backed president and the new government's decision to align itself with the West.

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