Despite French President Francois Hollande’s attention-grabbing statements about ending Western sanctions against Russia, Denmark thinks the EU should stay the course.
In an interview with France Inter radio, Hollande said that biting Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted if progress is made in resolving the Ukraine crisis.
"I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will remain," he said during the wide-ranging interview, as quoted by The Local France.
Hollande also said that he is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want to annex Ukraine.
"Mr Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine. He has told me that," said Hollande, who has spoken several times with the Russian leader.
"What he wants is to remain influential. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the Nato camp," said Hollande.
But despite Hollande’s statements, which were greeted warmly in Russia, Denmark’s foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, said that the sanctions are working and should be continued.
“Even if France has changed its opinion, it is Denmark’s position that the EU is best served by standing by the sanctions,” Lidegaard told Politiken.
Sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States, along with plunging oil prices, sent the ruble crashing by some 40 percent against the dollar last year.
The punitive measures were slapped on Ukraine's former Soviet master after Moscow annexed Crimea, and was subsequently accused of stoking separatist conflict in the east of the country.
The tensions between the West and Russia have also been felt in Denmark. Putin's import ban on Western goods has been a blow to the Danish agriculture industry and companies like dairy giant Arla, while Russia's financial problems have also hurt Danish brewery Carlsberg and Denmark's tourism industry.
Although he said Denmark’s position is to keep applying pressure to Russia, Lidegaard opened the door to reconsidering the sanctions at a later point.
“There is no doubt that the sanctions are biting harder than we had expected. Therefore the sanctions should be periodically reevaluated,” he said.
For much more on Francois Hollande’s interview, including his take on the spectre of a Greek exit from the eurozone, head on over to The Local France.