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Russia Slams EU Decision to Extend Sanctions

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a meeting with foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Moscow, Russia, June 3, 2015.

Kremlin officials denounced the decision by the European Union to extend economic sanctions against Russia for an additional six months.

The sanctions were extended to keep pressure on Moscow over the conflict in eastern Ukraine and have drawn a warning of retaliation from Russian officials.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Europeans of bending to an anti-Russian lobby, apparently a jab at the United States, which had urged a continuation of sanctions to maintain pressure on the Kremlin over its intervention in eastern Ukraine.

“We are deeply disappointed that once again the opinion of the Russophobic lobby, which pushed through the decision to extend the illegal restrictions, dominated in the EU,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich.

The Russian government said it would retaliate with an extension of countersanctions in response to the decision European Union foreign ministers made 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.

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