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EU governments agree to extend economic sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

Ambassadors from the 28 EU nations have agreed at a meeting in Brussels to extend sanctions on Russia until next January. The decision will be ratified by EU foreign ministers next week.

The six-month extension to sanctions until January 31 was agreed by ambassadors from the 28 EU nations meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. An EU diplomat said that European ambassadors decided to prolong "the most serious package of our sanctions" before they expire next month.

The sanctions

on Russia's energy, defense and financial sectors were imposed in July 2014 for one year. They were the EU's response to Moscow's annexation of the Crimea region and Russia's support for separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ratification of the decision by EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg next Monday is expected to be a formality. The next day the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia are to hold talks in Paris, it was announced Wednesday.

The arrangement means there will be no formal motion on Russia at an EU leaders' meeting in Brussels at the end of next week.

The EU ambassadors also agreed to extend for a year the ban on imports from Crimea which was due to expire on June 23.

The ambassadors asked EU officials to start the legal work required to extend asset freezes or travel bans on Ukrainian and Russian nations and companies accused of undermining Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. No decision was taken on extending the sanctions on 150 people and 37 organizations which were due to expire on September 15.

Russia response

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would wait for an official EU announcement before making any move. He said Russia's reaction would be based on the "principle of reciprocity."

This suggests an extension of counter-sanctions to include a ban on Western food imports.

Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow had already factored in EU sanctions to its economic planning.

Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, Russia's main oil producer said the EU decision to renew sanctions was harmful to both Russia and the EU: "It'll affect everyone," he said. "First of all, manufacturers of technology that we buy in Europe. So I think this is not the right decision."

The extension of sanctions comes as there is

renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine

between pro-Moscow separatists and Ukrainian troops. The terms of the ceasefire agreement signed between the parties in Minsk in February have still not been carried out.

jm/bw (AP, Reuters)

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