European Union extends economic sanctions against Russia

EU leaders have extended economic penalties against Russia for six months until the end of January. The decision prolongs the ban on doing business with Russian banking and financial institutions and new energy projects.

“We had a very short discussion on Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk Agreements that led to a political decision to extend the sanctions for another six months,” an unnamed source in the EU Council told journalists in Brussels.

The decision came at the bloc’s summit and is expected to be confirmed in the coming days. According to the source, the move was triggered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly urged the leaders to prolong sanctions against Moscow due to the current state of implementation of the Minsk peace accord on Ukraine.

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© Barbara Sax

“It was said that there are no changes, so sanctions are prolonged, the sanctions regime remains unchanged,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the renewal of the punitive measures against Russia should not be automatic. Italy has repeatedly voiced concerns over the sanctions, saying they were having a huge negative impact on Italian firms’ exports to Russia.

“We will reaffirm the principle that there should be nothing automatic about the renewal of sanctions,” the official told parliament. “We need to be very careful about this. Sanctions should be a means and not constitute an end.”

The penalties were initially introduced in 2014 over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis and its reunification with the Crimean Peninsula. Sanctions target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, along with some government officials, businessmen and public figures.

The Kremlin responded by imposing an embargo on agricultural produce, food and raw materials on countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. Since then both sides have repeatedly broadened and extended the restrictive measures.

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