EU Extends Russia Sanctions to July Amid Fragile Ukraine Peace

  • Penalties were scheduled to expire at end of January 2016
  • Russia describes EU's actions as a `short-sighted game'

The European Union renewed economic sanctions on Russia for another six months as questions remained over the implementation of Ukraine’s peace plan.

The penalties, which EU leaders agreed should remain in place as long as Russia fails to honor in full the cease-fire deal agreed in Minsk in February, will now expire on July 31 unless they are renewed again. They had been scheduled to lapse on Jan. 31.

“Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented” by Dec. 31, “the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged while the Council” of EU nations “continues its assessment of progress in implementation,” the EU said in a statement on its website.

EU governments have maintained the trade and investment curbs to pressure Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to live up to the peace plan. While the cease-fire -- negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande -- has largely held since September, the U.S. and EU say Russia has not complied fully with the conditions of the plan, which included the withdrawal of military and equipment from the conflict-scarred region.

The decision, which was endorsed unanimously in Brussels by ambassadors from the EU’s 28 nations on Monday, had been delayed for a week after Italy objected to an automatic renewal without debate.

Russia responded to the EU’s decision by saying the sanctions would not work over the long term.

“Instead of building constructive cooperation to respond to key challenges of modern times, the EU in Brussels prefers to continue playing a short-sighted sanctions game,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

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