Federica Mogherini, the chief of European diplomacy, yesterday (14 December) confirmed that the European Union would discuss sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine during the upcoming summit which is to take place this week. The punitive measures are expected to remain in place and be further extended by another half a year. The debate on sanctions has been prompted by Italy after blocking the sanctions rollover from taking place as intended at a meeting of ambassadors from the EU28 in Brussels last week.
Brussels imposed sanctions targeting a variety of industries and sectors after a Malaysian Airlines jet had been shot down in July 2014 by, as widely believed, pro-Russian rebels in the rebel-controlled territories in the eastern part of Ukraine. The punitive measures also include travel bans and asset freezes on Ukrainian and Russian nationals believed to be responsible for supporting the pro-Kremlin groups. Ms Mogherini commented that the Minsk agreement, which was set by European leaders as the benchmark for sanctions to be relaxed, was “still far from having a full implementation”. She added that “politically let me say the general assessment today was clearly going in the direction of a rollover of sanctions” and added that “there is a European Council (EU summit) on Thursday so my factual assessment is that most probably it will be on that agenda.”
Russia is among Italy’s main trade partners in Europe and as such Rome confirmed earlier last week that it wanted to keep all means of communications with the Kremlin open despite the Ukrainian crisis. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni commented that he did “not foresee a long discussion” on sanctions at the upcoming summit. Within the EU, there have been for long divisions over the sanctions against Russia and they have intensified again in recent weeks as a result of the Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict.