EU agrees to extend Russia sanctions over Ukraine

European Union governments have reached preliminary agreement to extend sanctions against Russia for six months for its role in the Ukraine crisis, triggering Kremlin warnings that Moscow will retaliate.

The decision, reached by EU envoys Wednesday in Brussels, is expected to be formally adopted at a meeting of the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers in Luxembourg next week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Moscow will formally respond to the extension once it is formalized.  He said the response will be based “on the principle of reciprocity.” Analysts expect it to include a further ban on European food imports.

Sanctions against Russia were imposed following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March of last year, and expanded after the shoot-down of a Malaysian airliner in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border in July.

U.S. President Barack Obama lobbied European allies earlier this month not to ease the 2014 penalties until Moscow shows greater willingness to back a shaky cease-fire plan that Russia, Ukraine and separatist rebels signed in February, with Germany and France mediating.

Observers say the so-called Minsk accords outlining the cease-fire are routinely violated.

Last year’s sanctions were the strongest against Moscow since the Cold War ended more than two decades ago.

At the time, U.S. officials said the penalties on Russia’s banking sector, exports and other international business transactions were aimed at further weakening a Russian economy already sliding toward recession.


(Photo: Päivi Tiittanen)