Obama, EU Leaders Agree to Keep Sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin / AP

President Obama and leaders of the European Union agreed on Friday to retain sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine.

The meeting, hosted in Berlin by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was held amid growing concern that President-elect Donald Trump will ease U.S. policy toward Russia despite Moscow's military actions in Ukraine and Syria and ongoing human rights abuses. Leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain unanimously supported the proposal, the New York Times reported.

International sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Moscow abides by its pledge for a cease-fire and removes heavy weapons from the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

"President Obama expressed confidence that, even at a moment of great change, democratic values have done more to advance human freedom and progress than any other system in history, and will continue to do so going forward," the White House said in a statement.

The leaders also agreed to work together on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolutions for the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine, the White House said.

The meeting Friday concluded Obama's weeklong visit to European allies, his last as president.