The European Union’s sanctions against Russia should end. So said Austria’s vice chancellor and leader of the country’s far-right Freedom Party.

In an interview with the newspaper Oesterreich printed on June 3, Heinz-Christian Strache said: “It is high time to put an end to these exasperating sanctions and normalise political and economic relations with Russia”.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the United States, the EU and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. But unlike most western European countries, Austria did not expel Russian diplomats over the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Austria’s coalition government says it wants to act as a bridge between east and west, while Kurz has stressed its pro-EU stance is secure.

Strache’s remarks come as a European diplomatic push to address the conflict in eastern Ukraine gain pace.

On June 11, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has invited his counterparts from France, Russia and Ukraine for a meeting in Berlin to discuss the conflict

According to Reuters, Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine have previously held talks in an effort to end the fighting in Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people despite a notional ceasefire.