The European Union will extend its sanctions against Russia for six more months to keep pressure on Moscow to respect the fragile peace agreement in Ukraine, EU officials said Thursday.
Two officials said EU nations backed the deal at a summit of EU leaders and the formal decision will be adopted over the next few days. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not officially made yet.
The extension further underscores the worsening relations between the 28-nation bloc and Russia.
It means restrictive measures targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, as well as goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, remain in force until at least the middle of next year.
The EU imposed sanctions against Russia in July 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and added to them after Russia backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The measure had been widely expected and involves diplomatic measures including canceling top-level meetings, and travel bans and asset freezes on people linked to the annexation of Crimea or believed to be interfering with Ukraine’s independence.
The EU leaders on Thursday also strongly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for his continued support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad and the air campaign over Aleppo. The sanctions were not linked to this, though.
“I have been talking constantly to Russia, and Russia makes commitments that it is not keeping. Now it is time for us to conclude a cease-fire,” French President François Hollande told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for the summit.