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Austrian Euroskeptics Urge Lifting Harmful Anti-Russia Sanctions

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It is high time for the full lifting of Western sanctions against Russia due to their negative effect on the Austrian economy, as it is only the United States that benefits from them amid increased export to Russia, the executive director of Austrian Euroskeptic party Team Stronach, Robert Lugar, told Sputnik.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in favor of extending anti-Russia sanctions until there was progress in the situation in Ukraine.

"It’s high time to lift the sanctions against Russia – not just gradually, but totally – because it harms Austria’s economy. The only ones who gain a profit out of the EU sanctions against Russia are the USA, as exports from the USA to Russia increased … whereas those from the EU went down," Lugar said.

On Sunday, in an interview to German newspaper Die Welt Austrian Vice Chancellor and Chairman of the Austrian People's Party (OVP) Reinhold Mitterlehner reiterated his call for gradual lifting of anti-Russia sanctions. According to the vice chancellor, the sanctions should not be automatically prolonged and more discussions on the issue are necessary. Mitterlehner called for lifting the sanctions in February, saying that they had affected over 1,500 Austrian companies and 40,000 employees.

Lugar said Austria’s pork exports had gone down 62 percent in 2014 and local farmers lost approximately 30 million euros (about $32 million).

"We have to cooperate with Russia in order to secure a sustainable growth and employment creation," Lugar added.

According to Lugar, sanctions introduced against Russia by the European Union are a false signal.

Despite the continuing anti-Russia sanctions there is a certain trend in which the importance of the United States as Russia’s trading partner is growing steadily, despite a decline in total turnover. According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, in 2013 Russian-US trade turnover stood at $27.7 billion, or 3.3 percent of Russia's foreign trade. For the period of January-October 2016 the trade turnover between the United States and Russia stood at $14. 26 billion, with the US share in the total volume of Russian trade rising to 4.3 percent.

According to the European Commission data, EU imports from Russia fell from over 200 billion euros ($220 billion) in 2013 to less than 140 billion euros in 2015. Exports dropped from 120 billion euros to less than 80 billion euros in 2015, respectively. During the period of January-August 2016 the trade turnover between Russia and the EU countries amounted to 121.1 billion euros, which is 15.7 percent less than in the same period last year. Imports from EU countries, according to Eurostat, at the end of eight months of 2016 decreased by 5 percent, amounting to 46 billion euros.

Relations between Russia and the West have soured amid the crisis in Ukraine. Brussels, Washington and their allies have introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions over Crimea rejoining Russia in 2014 and over Moscow's alleged involvement in the conflict between the eastern Ukrainian militia and Kiev. Russia has repeatedly refuted the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability.

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