REUTERS

The leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) has rejected a call by a fellow party member to ease sanctions pressure on Russia, saying they should remain until Moscow changes its behavior in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on June 8 said that "so long as there is no change to Russian behavior there, there is no room for maneuver for a change in economic cooperation," Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said.

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Her comments countered remarks by fellow CDU member Michael Kretschmer, the governor of the German state of Saxony.

Kretschmer met President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 7 and later tweeted that "for a better relationship, we need an end to the sanctions."

The European Union and the United States have imposed financial sanctions on Moscow for its 2014 seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and the war in Donbas.

In an interview in the German daily Bild, Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Merkel as CDU leader, said Moscow must first step back from interfering in Ukraine before an easing of sanctions can be considered.

"The economic sanctions are a reaction to the Russian government's violations of international law in Crimea and eastern Ukraine," she said.

"As long as nothing changes in Russia's behavior there, there is no room for changing economic cooperation."

Kretschmer on June 8 refused to step back from his comments from St. Petersburg, saying he was leading the debate with a "huge, positive sense of closeness to Russia and its people."

Germany's economy minister, Peter Altmaier – who also attended the economic forum – also reiterated that sanctions would remain in place "as long as the reasons for their initial existence remain."