The European Union yesterday (19 December) prolonged the economic sanctions, targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy. The first set of punitive measures was launched in July 2014 for one year in response to the annexation of Crimea. The initial measures targeted the financial, energy and defense sectors and were reinforced in September 2014. In the spring 2015, Brussels linked the duration of sanctions with the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, which was foreseen by the end of 2015. Since Russia did not comply till this date, the Council extended the sanctions until mid-2016 and eventually till January 2017.
The European Council has now assessed the implementation of the Minsk agreement and decided that the sanctions would be prolonged till the end of July 2017. The most significant sanctions prolonged by this decision are for example the limited access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for five major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions as well as three major Russian energy and three defense companies, ban on exports and imports on trade in arms, an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia and curtailed access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration. In addition to these economic measures, there are also several other measures such as travel bans and asset freeze currently for more than 150 individuals and 37 entities.
The announcement of EU’s decision to prolong sanctions against Russia came very unfortunately yesterday when Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara by a Turkish gunman screaming “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” in what the leaders of Turkey and Russia called a provocative terrorist attack. Following the shocking assassination, EU’s Federica Mogherini sent a message to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the following text: “I was deeply shocked to hear of the inconceivable attack against Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara this afternoon. Our fullest sympathies are with his family, all his colleagues, and the Russian authorities. The European Union condemns in the strongest possible manner this attack against your country’s representative in Turkey. We wish to express our solidarity with Russia in the face of this criminal act of violence.”