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Ukraine says Russian sanctions must stay, rejects talk of Trump deal

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko listens during a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Ukraine’s president said on Tuesday world powers should keep sanctions on Russia, rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to consider reducing the penalties if Moscow proved a useful ally.

Petro Poroshenko told reporters that sanctions remained the only way to keep Russia at the negotiating table over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, that Western powers say has been fuelled by Moscow.

The United States, the European Union and others imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine’s east.

But Trump told the Wall Street Journal this month he might do away with some penalties if Moscow proved helpful in battling Islamist militants and reaching other goals important to Washington.

Asked about the comments on Tuesday, Poroshenko said: “We’ve enjoyed very strong bipartisan support in the United States during the last three years. We don’t see any reason to change this situation.”

“We don’t see any connection with possible progress in Middle East and the situation in Ukraine ... With that situation, the only effective way is sanctions, to motivate the Russian Federation, president Putin, to be at the negotiating table,” Poroshenko added during a visit to Finland, another neighbour of Russia.

Poroshenko’s Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, said he did not think the United States was changing its policy on the sanctions.

“Nevertheless, the U.S. has put its own sanctions, and European Union has ... made its own decisions,” he added.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Writing by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Andrew Heavens