"I headed the Bundesrat in the past as the Saxony minister-president. Building bridges is my motto, as, to my mind, everything regarding relations between East and West prescribes the possibility to build bridges. I am very happy to use the opportunity to resume such work… and to make my contribution. Of course, I have discussed the possibility of holding such [Friendship Group] meeting with Budesrat's secretariat," Tillich said at a meeting with Valery Ponomarev, a member of the Russian Council of the Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Ponomarev, on his part, expressed hope that the meetings between Russian and German senators would resume in 2017.
Since 2014, relations between Russia and the West, including Germany, have soured amid the crisis in Ukraine. Brussels, Washington and their allies have introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions since Crimea became part of Russia in 2014 and over Moscow's alleged involvement in the conflict between the pro-independence eastern Ukrainian militias and Kiev. Russia has repeatedly refuted the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability.
In May, Tillich urged to lift EU anti-Russia sanctions as soon as possible calling Russia an important trade partner for Germany and the European Union in a long-term perspective.