European Union governments struck a preliminary accord on Wednesday to extend sanctions against Russia by six months to the end of January in order to continue the pressure on the Kremlin to return peace to eastern Ukraine.
Representatives from 28 EU nations agreed in Brussels on the extension, showing unity against Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine.
The EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxemburg on June 22 will confirm the decision on Monday. However, no formal motion concerning Russia at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels next week is expected.
European restrictions ban financing for major Russian banks, prohibit the export of sophisticated energy-exploration equipment, and rule out the sale of weapons and some civilian goods with military uses.
A separate blacklist - which is due to run until September 15 - introduces asset freezes and travel bans on 151 people, companies, and organisations accused of destabilising Ukraine.
According to Russian media, the country’s Finance Minister Anton Siluonov said Moscow had already taken an extension of the measures into account in its economic planning.
EU responded to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region by imposing sanctions on Russia’s energy, defense, and financial sectors in July 2014 for one year. Following the sanctions Russia banned imports of most food from the West.
It was decided in the G7 leaders meeting in Germany last week that the sanctions could be tightened if violence between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists escalates in eastern Ukraine, despite the Minsk ceasefire agreement in February.
In March this year EU leaders agreed to maintain the economic sanctions until a peace deal was reached and implemented in Ukraine.
The extension of the sanctions until the first month of next year is expected to give time to the EU leaders to be able to assess at their summit in December if the terms of the Minsk agreement have been met.