EU leaders agree to extend Russia economic sanctions
EU leaders on Thursday agreed to extend for another six months damaging economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, diplomatic sources said.
“Yes, six months rollover,” one of the sources told AFP when asked whether European Union leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels had extended the measures.
Another source said a formal decision would be “adopted in the next few days”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said earlier this week they wanted the sanctions extended because Moscow was not living up to its Ukraine truce commitments.
They said there had been no progress in implementing the Minsk ceasefire accords which they helped broker between Ukraine and Russia, and so there was no option but to keep the measures in place.
The 28-nation EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
The sanctions have been rolled over regularly since then but several member states, led by Italy, have increasingly questioned their effectiveness and cost.
Donald Trump’s shock US election victory added to the doubts given his apparently softer line on Russia, prompting a debate over whether they should be extended for six months or three.
The West says Russia supplies the rebels with military hardware and assistance, a charge Moscow denies although it says it does support their cause.
Besides the economic measures, which target Russia’s oil, financial and military sectors, the EU has also imposed a separate series of travel bans and asset freeze sanctions against Ukraine and Russian figures deemed to have undermined Ukrainian territorial integrity. These sanctions expire in March.
Similar sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of Crimea run until the end of June 2017.