EU extends Russia sanctions over Ukraine crisis
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The European Union on Monday extended economic sanctions on Russia by another six months to keep up the pressure on Moscow over the conflict in east Ukraine, prompting a warning from Russia of a retaliatory ban on EU agricultural imports.
An EU statement said the extension was agreed without a new debate by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg in response to "Russia's destabilising role in eastern Ukraine".
The sanctions include limiting access to some financial markets and a ban on certain technological exchanges between the bloc and Russia in the energy and defense sectors.
In response, Russia is expected to extend its ban on the import of many agricultural products from the EU, a restriction imposed last August as a countermeasure to the EU sanctions.
"Since they were extended, we will act on the principle of reciprocity," said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow in May released a blacklist of European Union politicians barred from Russia in response to the EU sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine.
Russia slams 'illegal restrictions'
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels has killed more than 6,400 people in eastern Ukraine and persists despite a ceasefire agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in February that calls for the pullback of heavy weapons from the front line.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that it was "deeply disappointed that once again the view of the Russophobic lobby in the EU has prevailed" in the extension of the "illegal restrictions".
The European Union and the United States have said that the sanctions will remain in place until Russia complies with the Minsk ceasefire deal.
The Russian foreign ministry said it was wrong to hold Russia fully responsible for the implementation of the Ukraine peace agreement and that the key to a lasting settlement was in Kiev's hands.
The ministry also said "it looks particularly cynical" that the EU made the decision on June 22, the date in 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Russia still holds memorial services on this date.
"We would like to believe that this is a coincidence, not a specially designed step," the ministry statement said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the extension of sanctions was planned before Monday's gathering.
"In other words, all countries agreed," he told reporters during a break in the EU talks.
"Because as long as the Minsk agreement is not fulfilled, and also Russia has some responsibility for that, it was agreed that the measures would be extended," he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)