The European Union said that the assessment of the situation in Ukraine “did not justify a change in the regime of sanctions nor the list of persons and entities under restrictive measures,” which prompted EU Member States to formally approve the extension to the current system of sanctions by six months. The EU’s Council of Ministers said in a statement that “the asset freeze and travel bans against 149 persons and 37 entities have been extended until 15 March 2016.”
In mid-2015, Brussels extended a series of impactful economic sanctions against Russia by January 2016 on the grounds of Moscow’s failure to implement the ceasefire, which it agreed to in February this year. Another batch of EU sanctions to punish the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was recently prolonged to June 2016. Thus, the EU’s comprehensive regime of punitive measures against Russia remains in place.
Brussels insists that the EU cannot relax the sanctions until Moscow meets its ceasefire commitments, which it signed up to and until it proposes a political solution to the conflict. Although violations of the March ceasefire happen on a daily basis, observers say there has recently been an improvement. Moreover, the foreign ministers of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France said after their Saturday talks (12 September) that the negotiations had been more successful than previously and they were hoping to finalize a deal on withdrawing heavy weaponry from the contact line soon.
The Kremlin, who is continuously denying its engagement in the conflict in Crimea, has condemned the EU’s punitive measures as ineffective and counter-productive to peace efforts. Moreover, about 90 EU officials and politicians have been restricted to travel to Russia and a ban on EU imports of various goods including food has been introduced. The EU’s sanctions regime will be reviewed again in December.