Russia has hit back at a decision by leaders of the European Union to extend for another six months the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow over its “destabilizing” actions in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on December 15 described the sanctions as “illegal and unjust” and said Russia “did not consider such decisions beneficial to either EU member states or the Russian Federation.”
"Despite this, we, of course, are still set on improving relations with Brussels, which currently leave something to be desired," he added.
EU leaders on December 14 agreed at a Brussels summit to extend the sanctions against Russia for six months, until July 30, 2018.
The EU, along with the United States, has hit Moscow with sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and for its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since its start in April 2014.
When imposing the sanctions, the EU said they were “in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and deliberate destabilization of a neighboring sovereign country.”
Russia denies interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, despite compelling evidence that Moscow has provided military, economic, and political support to separatists fighting against Kyiv.
The sanctions, which mainly target the Russian banking, defense, and energy sectors, have been extended every six months since they were imposed.
The sanctions extended on December 14 are among three sets of EU measures against Moscow for various Ukraine-related activities.
The other two sets -- one in force through March 2018 and the other through June -- are eligible to be extended independently.