The European Union has decided to link its economic sanctions on Russia to the implementation of the Minsk agreement, a deal reached last month on a cease-fire and political settlement of the conflict between government forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, RFE/RL reports.
Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels on March 19, European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU leaders decided that "the duration of economic sanctions will be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreement, bearing in mind that this is only foreseen by the end of 2015."
A formal, legal decision on whether to extend sanctions on Russia's financial, defense and energy sectors that expire in July will only be taken at the next EU summit in June.
But the link to the Minsk agreement effectively extends the sanctions through December, because the accord calls for Kyiv to regain full control over it border with Russia by the end of the year.
Tusk said the EU would be ready to impose further sanctions over Russia's interference in Ukraine if necessary.
Moscow says the sanctions are unjustified and denies involvement in the conflict despite what Kyiv and NATO say is incontrovertible evidnce it has sent troops and weapons into Ukraine to support the separatists, who hold parts of two provinces bordering Russia.