Merkel told the RedaktionsNetzwerks Deutschland (RND) that Russia had caused a major crisis by annexing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and with its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Europe had to react against this violation of basic principles,” Merkel said.
She added that she and French President Francois Hollande were working “with all one’s strength” to urge Ukraine and Russia to implement the Minsk ceasefire agreement despite all the difficulties.
“This is and remains the yardstick for the future of the sanctions,” Merkel said.
The EU agreed in June to extend energy, financial and defense sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine until the end of January next year.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other leading Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, have struck a more conciliatory tone by saying that the EU should gradually phase out sanctions against Russia if there is progress in the peace process.