EU prolongs Russia sanctions over Ukraine, Russia to introduce food embargo on Ukraine
AP photoThe European Union agreed Dec. 21 to prolong damaging economic sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis for another six months amid sharp differences over relations with Moscow, while Russia will introduce a food embargo against Ukraine next month over Kiev’s trade deal with the EU.
A statement issued by the council of all 28 member states said it took the decision because the peace accords, brokered in Minsk, Belarus, by France and Germany with Ukraine and Russia, would not be fully implemented by end of this year as required.
“Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by Dec. 31, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council [of member states] continues its assessment of progress in implementation,” it said.
The decision was originally meant to have been a formality, with member country ambassadors supposedly approving the rollover in early December.
But it ended up delayed after several countries, especially Italy, raised questions about how the EU could both punish Russia over Ukraine yet still seek its help on key international issues, including the Syrian conflict.
Italy has traditionally close ties with Russia and wanted EU leaders at last week’s summit in Brussels to discuss the issue, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi could not get it on the formal agenda despite his best efforts.
“I found it surprising that we should want to confirm the sanctions without first having had a little discussion,” he said after the summit.
German plans to build a second pipeline - Nordstream 2 - to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea added to Renzi’s frustration.
Russia lashed out at the European Union for prolonging sanctions over the Ukraine crisis rather than choosing to cooperate over issues including the fight against terrorism.
“It is necessary to point out that instead of building constructive cooperation to counter the key challenges of our times such as international terrorism the EU in Brussels prefers to continue its short-sighted game of sanctions,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.
On the same day, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that Russia would introduce a food embargo against Ukraine, thus extending punitive measures already in place against Western countries.
“These measures will be extended to Ukraine too,” Medvedev said at a government meeting, according to Agence France-Presse. “I have just signed the relevant decree.”
A free trade deal between Ukraine and the European Union is set to enter into force from Jan. 1, 2016 as part of a broader agreement that helped sparked the current crisis between Kiev and the West on one side and Moscow on the other.
Russia has repeatedly expressed concern that Ukraine’s free trade agreement with Brussels may flood its market with European goods, and months of three-way talks with the EU to smooth the transition have yielded no results.
President Vladimir Putin last week ordered a suspension of Russia’s 2011 free trade agreement with Ukraine.