Friday, July 29, 2016


Russia

EU Agrees To Extend Sanctions On Russia

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) meets with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, last week in Brussels.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) meets with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, last week in Brussels.
By RFE/RL

The European Union has agreed to extended sanctions for another six months against Russian firms and individuals, as well as Ukrainian separatists, to maintain pressure on Moscow to carry out the Minsk cease-fire agreement. 

The decision was made at a meeting of EU ambassadors on September 2 and should be signed off by ministers in mid-September.

The asset freeze and travel bans were due to expire September 15. 

The sanctions where first introduced by the EU in 2014 for people and entities responsible for actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity.

The sanctions target 150 people, including senior Russian advisors, lawmakers, and Ukrainian rebel leaders. 

The Russians targeted include deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak, who the EU said was in charge of integrating Crimea into Russia after its March 2014 annexation, and Dmitry Rogozin, who publicly called for the seizing of the territory, according to the EU. It also includes Igor Sergun, head of Russia’s main intelligence directorate, and senior Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov.

Also on the list are 37 firms and other entities, including 13 which were confiscated by Moscow during Russia’s annexation of Crimea or which benefited from that move.

There had been some discussion of extending the targeted sanctions only until the end of January. Earlier in the year, some EU officials said there could be pressure to reduce the size of the list since the situation in eastern Ukraine had calmed somewhat. 

The move is the latest sign that despite significant political differences within the bloc over the conflict in Ukraine, the EU’s 28 member states remain united around the need to keep economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In June, the EU agreed to extend broader economic sanctions against Russia until January 2016. The EU, the United States, and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia for supporting and supplying the separatists. Russia denies any interference.

Russia and Ukraine must complete by December 31 implementation of the Febuary 12 cease-fire deal, signed in and named after the Belarusian capital. For Ukraine, that means agreeing to broad constitutional reforms to increase autonomy of the eastern regions of the country where the separatists have enjoyed some support.

The Ukrainian parliament's initial vote of approval for the constitutional reforms this week provoked a violent protest and the death of three National Guardsmen. A vote on final approval will come later this year.

For Russia, compliance with the agreement means withdrawing all forces from Ukraine and returning control to Kyiv of the Ukrainian side of the border between the two countries. Moscow denies it has any soldiers in Ukraine.

In a visit to Brussels last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko urged the bloc to roll over the sanctions, accusing Russia and the separatists of repeatedly violating the cease-fire.

During the latest peak in violence last month, Moscow blamed Kyiv, saying Ukrainian forces were preparing a fresh offensive against the rebels.

With reporting by Wall Street Journal and Interfax

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