Economic sanctions of EU against Russia are extended again because of the ongoing Ukraine conflict. The European Union leaders agreed on Thursday at their summit in Brussels, as spokesman for Council President Donald Tusk confirmed this evening.
The EU had last extended the trade and investment restrictions in December 2018 until July 31, 2019 despite billions in losses for domestic companies. They are now to apply for another six months. In Germany recently had the Prime Minister of the free State of Saxony Michael Kretschmer called for an end to the sanctions and thus caused discontent in the party leadership.
According to diplomats, there were no major discussions on the decision at EU level. One reason was the Russia’s crackdown on Ukrainian naval ships late last year. At that time, the Russian Coast Guard had forcibly prevented two patrol boats and one tugboat from driving through the Straits of Kerch into the Sea of Azov. The sailors were arrested and the ships confiscated. The EU has been calling for their unconditional release for months.
In addition, Russia should be able to hope for a lifting of economic sanctions only if the agreements of the Minsk peace plan on the Ukraine conflict are completely fulfilled. By linking sanctions to the peace plan, the EU states want Russian President Vladimir Putin to use its influence on the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine more for a settlement of the conflict.
Experts assume, according to diplomats, that the sanctions have already cost Russia hundreds of billions. However, the European economy is also suffering as sanctions hamper trade of many EU companies with Russia, while Moscow has imposed import bans on Western agricultural products such as fruit and meat.
The EU sanctions were introduced after the crash of a Malaysian aircraft with 298 people on board over the eastern Ukraine in July 2014. It has been shot down by pro-Russian separatists, according to Western investigators.
Regardless of the harsh sanctions against the Russian economy, those are EU sanctions that specifically hit the economy on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was incorporated by Russia. They were extended for a full year by the EU on Thursday and will not be repealed until the Crimea is returned to Ukraine by Russia. The regulations provide, for example, that cruise ships from the European Union may not enter ports of the territory separated from Ukraine.
The European Union “resolutely insists on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine five years after the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia,” it said in support of the sanction extension. The EU does not recognize and condemn this violation of international law.