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    EU extends economic sanctions against Russia by 6 months

    EU leaders on Thursday extended economic sanctions against Russia for six months over the country’s role in the Ukraine conflict.
    “EU united on roll-over of economic sanctions on Russia,” European Council President Donald Tusk posted on Twitter.
    The sanctions were first adopted in July 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its support for separatists in the country’s east.
    The European Union has tied easing the sanctions to Russia implementing the Minsk peace agreement, which calls for an unconditional cease-fire and for both sides to pull heavy weapons from the frontline in eastern Ukraine.
    After the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the sanction extension was debated “intensely” though there was overall support for it.
    She said that while “escalation” was avoided, there had not been enough progress to justify a lifting of the sanctions and it was agreed that more needed to be done to kick start the Minsk agreement.
    The restrictive measures target the financial, energy and defense industries, impeding Russian banks’ access to EU markets and limiting Russian access to certain EU imports.
    The decision on extending the sanctions comes just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin used a three-hour televised news conference to reinforce his reputation as the country’s guarantor of stability.
    Putin also insisted that there was no Russian army presence in eastern Ukraine.
    According to the U.N., more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict that started in 2014.
    gazette.com

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