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EU Extends Russia Sanctions for 6 Months


FILE - European Union flags flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels.
FILE - European Union flags flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels.

European Union foreign ministers formally agreed Monday to extend economic sanctions against Russia for an additional six months in response to the country's role in neighboring Ukraine.

The move came during a meeting of the 28-member bloc's foreign ministers in Luxembourg. EU envoys had preliminarily approved the measure last week.

The sanctions target Russia's energy, defense and financial sectors and have been in place since July 2014, some four months after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. They will now run through January 31, 2016.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Russia considers the sanctions unfounded and that the basis for Moscow's response is "reciprocity." Analysts have said that could mean a further ban on European food imports.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kodijancic said on Twitter that the extension was done "with a view to complete implementation of [the] Minsk agreements."

That cease-fire plan signed in February by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France calls, in part, for the withdrawal of all heavy weapons and foreign fighters from eastern Ukraine. Observers say the agreement has been repeatedly violated.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin's website said that in a three-way telephone call Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, President Vladimir Putin "reiterated the need for an immediate halt" to what the website described as Ukrainian government forces' shelling of residential areas in eastern Ukraine.

The website reported that Putin also called for "energizing" the process of settling the conflict politically, by addressing the issues of constitutional reform and "the socio-economic reconstruction of southeastern regions" of Ukraine.