BRUSSELS – European Union leaders on December 12 decided to prolong economic sanctions on Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine by another six months.
The decision comes days after the first face-to-face meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris in which the pair committed to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine by the end of the year, a prisoner exchange, and a withdrawal of forces from three additional “disengagement areas” along the front line.
They did however fail to reach an agreement on more difficult issues related to the five-year conflict such as, a timeline for local elections and Ukrainian control over its borders with Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who mediated the talks on December 9, briefed the other European leaders in Brussels about the summit and then recommended a roll-over of the restrictive measures against Moscow.
The sanctions, which mainly target Russia’s financial, energy, and defense industries, were first imposed in July 2014 as a response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for the separatists holding parts of the easternmost Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in a war that has killed more than 13,000 people.
The sanctions have been extended every six months ever since. The current measures expire on January 31 and were extended to the end of July 2020.