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  January 20th, 2016 | Written by

EU Sanctions on Russia Extended for Six Months

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  • EU Russia sanctions have been prolonged pending assessment of progress in implementation of Minsk accord.
  • Putin: Europe “does not pursue an independent foreign policy at all. It has essentially abandoned it.”
  • EU, US imposed sanctions on Russia after pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels downed Malaysia Airlines jet in July 2014.

The European Union has extended damaging economic sanctions against Russia for another six months as a result of Moscow’s failure to fully implement the terms of the Ukraine peace plan agreed-to a year ago in Minsk, Belarus.

The sanctions “will remain in place as long as Russia fails to honor in full the cease-fire deal,” according to a statement from the European Council of all 28 EU member states. “The duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council continues its assessment of progress in implementation.”

The sanctions will now be lifted on July 31 “if Russia ensures pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine pledge adherence to the Minsk deal,” it said. If not, they will be renewed again.

They had originally been scheduled to lapse at the end of this month.

Moscow quickly responded to the move saying that, “It is necessary to point out that instead of building constructive cooperation to counter the key challenges of our times such as international terrorism, the EU in Brussels prefers to continue its short-sighted game of sanctions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Europe “does not pursue an independent foreign policy at all. It has essentially abandoned it,” charging that the economic/political bloc was acting as an “extra arm of the United States.”

The European Union and the U.S. first imposed economic sanctions on Russia’s oil, banking, and defense sectors for a year after the July 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet that was blamed on pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. A year later, the sanctions were renewed for six months to January 2016.

In addition, both imposed travel bans on and froze the assets of a number of Russian and Ukrainian individuals censured for their involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and targeted others directly involved in Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 with similar measures.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the sanctions imposed by the EU and U.S. over the Ukraine conflict have combined to cut about 1.5 percent off Russian economic output in 2015.