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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Western sanctions against Russia are not productive, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday, weeks before the European Union is on track to renew them.

The EU slapped sanctions on Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. The 28-strong EU needs unanimity to keep the sanctions in place and the bloc's unity has been increasingly tested on that.

"We have repeatedly said that ... the vicious circle of militarization, of Cold War rhetoric and of sanctions is not productive," Tsipras told reporters during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Greece. "The solution is dialogue."

"Everyone recognises that there cannot exist a future for the European continent with the European Union and Russia at loggerheads," Tsipras said.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Michele Kambas)

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