Obama backs new sanctions to pressure Russia on truce

NEWPORT - United States President Barack Obama said Friday that EU and US sanctions against Russia would likely still be imposed despite a ceasefire in Ukraine, but could be lifted if it holds.

"Today, the United States and Europe are finalising measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions," Mr Obama said after the end of a NATO summit in Newport in Wales.

The sanctions, due to be announced on Friday, would target the defence, energy and financial sectors.

These measures should be applied in a way that pressures Russia to ensure "follow-through" on the ceasefire, Mr Obama said.

"The only reason that we're seeing this ceasefire at this moment is because of both the sanctions that have already been applied and the threat of further sanctions," he said.

Mr Obama said that "Europeans are discussing at this point the final shape of their sanctions' measures".

The Czech Republic and Slovakia joined forces this week to lobby the European Union to soften new sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Along with Bulgaria and Hungary, leftist governments in Prague and Bratislava insist further sweeping export bans to Russia could hit their fragile economies hard. - AFP