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EU extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis

EU leaders have agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months due to what they call Moscow’s failure to comply with its Ukraine ceasefire commitments.

“Agreed. The EU will extend economic sanctions against Russia for their lack of implementing the Minsk agreement,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted during a two-day EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The decision will be formalized in July and come into effect on July 31.

The economic sanctions against Moscow were originally introduced in March 2014, after the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum.

Since then, the EU, the US and some other Western countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow has been involved in the deadly crisis in Ukraine, which has so far killed more than 10,000 people. The Kremlin has, however, strongly rejected the accusations.

Ukraine’s armed conflict broke out when Kiev launched military operations to crack down on pro-Russia forces in the eastern sector of the country.

In September 2014, the government in Kiev and the pro-Russia forces signed a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in a bid to halt the clashes in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

The warring sides also inked another truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany and France.

Since then, however, both parties have on numerous occasions accused each other of violating the ceasefire.

Ukrainian servicemen stand at a government-controlled position on the front line of the conflict with pro-Russia forces in Donetsk, November 7, 2015.

The new extension of EU sanctions, which was widely expected, came after newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefed their colleagues in the European bloc on Paris-Berlin efforts to make the Minsk ceasefire agreement work.

“Macron and I talked about the state of play of the Minsk process. Unfortunately, we had to state that there is little progress”, Merkel told reporters, adding that there had been “constant violations of the ceasefire.”

The EU argues that Russia must be held accountable for backing the rebels in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow accuses Brussels of aiding and abetting the overthrow of a legitimate government in Ukraine.

The EU has blocked the import of products from Crimea and halted any European investment or real estate purchases and prevents cruise ships from stopping in Crimea.

It has also banned the exports to Crimea of certain goods and technologies that could be used in the transport, telecommunications, or energy sector, particularly oil, gas, or mineral exploration.

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