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Diplomats: EU states agree to extend Russian sanctions by six months

EU diplomats have agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Brussels has tied any dropping of sanctions to the full implementation of a peace deal.

The decision is to become final at midday CET on Monday (1100 UTC), unless any member state raises an objection in writing.

"COREPER agreed to the extension of sanctions against Russia," a source told the AFP news agency on Friday, referring to a formal meeting of the 28 country ambassadors to the EU.

The decision follows an EU summit in Brussels where Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he wished to discuss the sanctions before extending them.

The EU has linked any lifting of sanctions to the successful implementation of the Minsk peace deal between pro-Russian rebels in

Ukraine's eastern regions

and the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. Many points of that agreement have not been fully implanted, and Moscow is being blamed for failing to use its influence to bring the rebels into line.

The restrictions are now to last until the end of July 2016.

Ban on equipment, visas

The sanctions mean that EU nationals are not able to buy or sell long-term bonds and equities in a list of banks, defense companies and energy firms. Asset freezes and visa bans have also been applied to 149 people and 37 "entities."

Restrictions also entail a ban on the provision of military technology and energy-related equipment and technology.

There are prohibitions on investment and provision of tourism services in Crimea and Sevastapol, to the extent that no EU cruise liners may dock there unless in an emergency.

Deep recession, falling oil prices

Sanctions against Russia were first implemented in July 2014, as a reaction to Moscow's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Russia is in deep recession, with the country's central bank warning that the country could continue to see negative growth into 2016.

While the country has been affected by the sanctions it has been particularly hurt by a

slump in the price of oil,

a commodity of which Russia is a major exporter.

The measures are aimed at hampering Russian imports and Russian banks' access to European capital markets and have further strained relations between Brussels and Moscow.

The sanctions have also

hit European businesses that have dealings with Russia hard,

with Moscow also imposing sanctions of its own in the opposite direction.

rc/msh (AFP, Reuters)