German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the new European Commission president said there was no prospect in sight of scaling back sanctions on Russia, maintaining a tough stance after Moscow embraced the results of a separatist election in eastern Ukraine. Ms. Merkel said in Berlin on Wednesday that the European Union should consider expanding its sanctions list to include the winners of Sunday’s local voting. The EU, Kiev and the U.S. have refused to recognize the elections and said that Russia’s refusal to condemn them are a breach of a September cease-fire. “We should also have another look at the list of specific individuals who now have responsibility in eastern Ukraine due to these illegitimate elections,” Ms. Merkel told reporters. “Otherwise I think we should maintain the sanctions we have.”
In his first detailed comments on Russia since taking over as commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker said he saw no need to adjust the bloc’s sanctions against Moscow. He also said his first bilateral meeting in his new role would be with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, though he didn’t give a date.
The standoff has made the prospect of ending the de facto division of Ukraine appear more remote. Ukraine’s prime minister said Wednesday that the government would withhold pensions and other benefits for residents of the rebel-controlled regions.