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Leading Merkel ally urges sanctions against ‘Russian henchmen’ over Syria

The head of Germany's foreign affairs committee said war criminals should not 'fly to Munich or Paris to do their Christmas shopping'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting at the lower house of parliament Bundestag on 2017 budget in Berlin, Germany, 23 November, 2016 (Reuters)

The head of Germany's foreign affairs committee, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, called on Monday for Berlin to impose sanctions on Russia because of its supporting role in the war in Syria.

The Syrian army and its allies announced the capture of a swathe of eastern Aleppo from rebels on Monday in an accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.

Norbert Roettgen, a lawmaker in Merkel's Christian Democratic (CDU) party, and Green parliamentarian Franziska Brantner said that the West must act immediately in view of the Syrian-Russian attacks in eastern Aleppo.

"The EU must at least impose sanctions on the Russian henchmen of these atrocities," they wrote in a statement.

"It's not acceptable that those responsible for war crimes fly to Munich or Paris to do their Christmas shopping while women and children are dying in Syria," they added.

The leaders of the United States and five European countries discussed their concerns about Syria during a meeting in Berlin on 18 November, but did not talk about imposing Syria-related sanctions against Russia that have been sought by the Syrian opposition.

Roettgen and Brantner said while sanctions would only work slowly, Russian President Vladimir Putin "would have to take their effects into account in his calculations on the consequences of his actions in Syria".

A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry said on Monday that an immediate humanitarian ceasefire was necessary in Aleppo for the sake of the people there.

"This tragedy must end. The regime and its supporters, above all Russia and Iran, bear the biggest responsibility for that," the spokeswoman said.