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EU Extends Russia Sanctions

EU foreign ministers have approved the extension of economic sanctions on Russia over its involvement in Ukraine by six months, until the end of January 2016.

The decision made at a meeting in Luxembourg comes after EU ambassadors on June 17 agreed to extend the sanctions hitting Russia's energy, financial, and military sector, and prolonged an investment ban on Crimea for another year.

The sanctions were imposed for one year in July 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March and its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

In March, EU heads of government decided that the duration of the restrictive measures against Russia would be linked to the complete implementation of a cease-fire deal signed in Minsk in February between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists.

An EU spokeswoman said in a tweeted message, "EU has extended economic sanctions against Russia until 31 January 2016, with a view to complete implementation of (the) Minsk agreement."

The sanctions affect Russia's energy, financial, and military sectors.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry peskov said on June 22 that Russia believes the sanctions are unfounded.

"Speaking of sanctions, reciprocity is the basis for our approach," Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tasked one of his deputies with helping put together a formal appeal to President Vladimir Putin to prolong Russia’s ban on Western food imports.

The cease-fire in eastern Ukraine has largely held but Kyiv and the rebels accuse each other of daily breaches and observers reported a sharp pick up in fighting earlier this month in a conflict which has claimed more than 6,400 lives.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP