EU member states formally prolonged their economic sanctions on Russia by six months on Friday, EU officials said, following a preliminary decision in June by the bloc's ambassadors.
The European Union first imposed the restrictive measures on Moscow in 2014 because of its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its alleged support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions, which have been extended until January 31, 2017, have been aimed at financial, energy and defence areas, as well as goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, according to an EU statement. Without the extension, they would have expired at the end of July.
In March of last year, the European Council agreed to link the duration of sanctions on Russia to the complete implementation of a ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine. The Minsk ceasefire agreement was expected to take hold by December 2015, but because it was not fully implemented, sanctions were extended until the end of July.
A new assessment of the ceasefire deal prompted EU members to renew the sanctions again.
Moscow has denied charges that it is fuelling the conflict with supplies of weapons and troops for the separatists.
The measures have severely strained relations between Brussels and Moscow, and have proven controversial because they inflicted economic pain both on Russia and EU member states.
Friday, December 18, 2015 - 20:18
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - 17:20