European leaders agreed on Thursday to extend their economic sanctions against Russia for six months because due to its failure to uphold the peace agreement signed between Russia and Ukraine.
“The European Council adopted the extension of sanctions to Russia,” said Barend Leyts, spokesman for the president of the European Council Charles Michel. The new extension ends on July 31 but could be extended further depending on the outcome of subsequent reviews.
The EU decided to impose sanctions against Russian energy, defence and banking sectors for the first time on July 31, 2014, after the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine, that international investigators blamed on Russian-backed rebels. The sanctions have been extended every six months since then.
In mid-March 2015, they also decided to link their duration to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which seek to end the conflict between forces loyal to Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to relaunch the process, bringing together the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Russian premiere, Vladimir Putin, in Paris last week. However following those talks the French and German leaders concluded that Russia was still not complying with the agreement, leading to the European Council’s decision on Thursday to extend the sanctions.
“As the Minsk agreements are not fully implemented, the European Council unanimously took the political decision to renew the sanctions against Russia, ” Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.
Russia was put under economic sanctions by the EU and the US in response to Moscow’s for its decision to annex Crimea from Ukraine and support a separatist rebellion in the east of that country which has led to the deaths of more than 13,000 people.