French President Francois Hollande says European Union sanctions against Russia could be gradually lifted but only if further progress is made on a peace deal for Ukraine.

He spoke amid pressure from some European companies and others to ease the sanctions, imposed over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. Moscow banned European food imports in retaliation, hurting European exporters.

After meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris, Hollande said if the Minsk peace agreement "is fully implemented then we could forecast the gradual lifting of sanctions." But he said for now sanctions would be maintained, saying more progress is needed on elections and releasing hostages.

Poroshenko insisted on i-Tele television that "there are no alternatives" to sanctions against Russia.

EU leaders may discuss changes to the sanctions next week.