The European Union has extended sanctions against Russia for a year over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The EU said in a statement yesterday that it "remains firmly committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and said that it continued to "condemn this violation of international law." The sanctions are now set to run until June 23, 2019, and apply to EU citizens and companies. They ban the import of products from Crimea and Sevastopol, halt any European investment or real estate purchases there and stop cruise ships from stopping there. The measures also ban the export of some goods and technologies that could be used for transport, telecommunications or in the energy sector — particularly oil, gas or mineral exploration.
The sanctions were imposed in the wake of Russia's annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula in March 2014. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in eastern Ukraine in April 2014 following the annexation.
The EU insists Russia must be held to account for its support of the rebels. But Moscow says Brussels is at fault for aiding the overthrow of a legitimate government in Kiev, referring to the ouster of a pro-Russian president in February 2014 after three months of sometimes deadly protests.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the extension saying Ukraine was "counting on the EU's tough stance on new security challenges from Russia" and the issue would be discussed when he meets EU leaders in Brussels on July 9.
In addition to the Crimea measures, the EU has a range of other measures in place related to Russia's activities in Ukraine, including damaging economic sanctions and individual travel bans and asset freezes targeting more than 150 people.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funneling troops and arms across the border. Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and gives open political support to the rebels.