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French Presidential Candidate Says Russia Sanctions 'Ineffective'

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon (left) chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club northwest of Moscow in September 2013.

French presidential candidate Francois Fillon says that the European Union's economic sanctions against Russia are ineffective and called for dialogue with Moscow.

Speaking on January 23, Fillon also expressed concern that the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump could forge links with Russia that would sideline the EU.

"I am convinced that the economic sanctions are totally ineffective," Fillon told reporters after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. "We must find another way to talk."

"I do not want Trump to talk with Russia at our expense. It would be damaging for Europe if Trump went above our heads, which is not inconceivable," Fillon said.

Trump has said he hopes to improve ties with Russia, which have been badly strained by Moscow's seizure of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, among other things. He suggested during the presidential campaign that he would consider easing or lifting sanctions imposed by the United States.

Fillon -- the front-runner in a presidential election that is expected to be decided in May -- said that a gesture from Russia would be needed before EU sanctions could be lifted.

He also said Kyiv was not doing enough to ensure an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

Based on reporting by Reuters