Putin says the West’s sanctions over Ukraine is foolish Russian president says both sides damaged in economic fallout

President Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin

ANKARA (AA) – Sanctions against Russia are “foolish” and damaging to both sides, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper, Putin said the sanctions – imposed by the EU and U.S. in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine – were aimed at hemming in Russia.

“The Russian population is absolutely clear about the situation,” he said. “The reunification of Crimea and Russia is just. The West’s sanctions are not aimed at helping Ukraine but at geo-politically pushing Russia back. They are foolish and are merely harming both sides.”

However, he said the Russian economy was suffering most from falling energy prices.

“We suffer dangerous revenue losses in our export of oil and gas, which we can partly compensate for elsewhere,” Putin said.

Russia largely depends on oil and gas revenues, which account for more than half of the federal budget revenue, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

He added: “Last year, the gross domestic product dropped by 3.8 per cent. Inflation is approximately 12.7 per cent. The trade balance, however, is still positive. For the first time in many years, we are exporting significantly more goods with a high added value and we have more than $300 billion in gold reserves.”

Putin voiced his support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he trusted her.

“She is a very open person,” he said. “She is also subject to certain constraints and limitations. But she is honestly trying to settle the crisis… in the southeast of Ukraine. However, what the European Union is doing with those sanctions is nothing but a theater of the absurd.”

EU sanctions were first imposed in July 2014.

In February last year, Ukraine and Russia signed the Minsk cease-fire agreement over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, widespread fighting has continued amid accusations of Russian military support for the separatists.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels since April 2014, according to the UN.

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