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EU officially extends Russia sanctions for six months over Ukraine conflict

The EU has decided to maintain economic sanctions against Moscow citing incomplete implementation of the Minsk peace accord. Moscow claims the extension will encourage Kyiv to 'sabotage' the peace process.

The sanctions will be prolonged until the end of July next year, EU officials announced in a statement on Monday.

The EU concluded that Russia had failed to fully respect the roadmap to peace in eastern Ukraine, as determined by the so-called Minsk accord.

"Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by 31 December 2015, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council (of member states) continues its assessment of progress in implementation," representatives of the European bloc said in a statement.

Although the fighting has died down in recent months, Kyiv still does not have full control over its eastern borders. Ukraine also accuses the pro-Russian rebels of ignoring the ceasefire conditions.

The sanctions target Russia's financial, energy, and defense sector, as well as banking and duel-use goods.

Restrictions also apply to the Russian-annexed Crimea – no EU cruise liners may dock there unless in an emergency.

Unity tested

This might be the last time that EU extends all of the restrictions, according to diplomatic sources cited by the Reuters news agency.

Last week, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pushed for a discussion on the issue but failed to get sanctions on to the formal agenda during the Brussels EU summit.

France has also sought to re-engage with Moscow on issues including the fight against terrorism and the peace plan in Syria, while Germany came under fire for allegedly working with Russia on the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

'No accountability' for Kyiv

Russian Foreign Ministry officials said in a comment published on their website: "The lack of logic in the EU move is apparent – they are attempting to 'punish' Russia for matters which do not depend on her."

In the text, the Russian diplomats shifted the focus on to the EU itself, saying that the bloc needed to work with Kyiv on implementing the peace deal. The comment also described the extension as "very hypocritical."

The conflict was "not sparked by Russia, but by the current Ukrainian authorities, who have attempted to force Donbass into submission for disagreeing with the Kyiv coup in February 2014," the ministry added.

The prolonged sanctions would incite Kyiv to "continue sabotaging the implementation of the Minsk agreement," senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Andrei Kelin also said on Monday.

Kelin said that Ukraine still needed to agree on election law with the rebels, declare an amnesty and adjust the constitution.

"This decision absolves Kyiv and allows it to keep acting with no accountability in the implementation the Minsk accord," he added.

Russia is in deep recession, only partly due to the EU sanctions. The slump in oil prices has also had a major effect on the energy-exporting country.

dj/jm (Reuters, Interfax, AFP, dpa)

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