The European Union extended sanctions on Russia until January 31, 2016, as the crisis in Ukraine continues to worsen. EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijančič said the group hopes the sanctions will push Russia to comply with the Minsk peace agreement.
— Maja Kocijančič (@MajaEUspox) June 22, 2015
The West implemented the sanctions against Russia’s financial, energy, and military sectors after Moscow annexed Crimea, Ukraine, in March 2014. The EU also extended sanctions on Crimea, which includes a ban on imports, “prohibiting investments in the region and banning EU cruise ships from stopping there.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in September 2014 and February 2015. Both times Ukraine and Russia agreed to end fighting in east Ukraine. However, Russian soldiers and pro-Russian rebels broke the so-called peace agreements before the ink dried on the paper.
“Russia obviously considers these sanctions unfounded, illegal and we have never been nor are we initiators of sanctions,” exclaimed Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.
The EU and America admitted that Russian soldiers have been active in east Ukraine this year. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov numerous times the past year, even said the Russian propaganda worked on him.
In light of this news, the Russian government might extend its own sanctions against the West.
“Taking into account that the European Union has extended sanctions against the Russian Federation for half a year, I ask you to prepare my proposal to the president to extend the presidential degree (on the ban) for this period,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The Russian Foreign Ministry laughed off the extension and blasted the “Russophobe lobby” within the EU.
“At the same time, Brussels is deliberately silent that it (the decision) will definitely result in hundreds of thousands or, by some estimates, even a couple of million Europeans losing their jobs,” stated the Ministry. “It looks especially cynical that the decision … was taken on June 22, the day when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union (in World War Two).”
Not everyone in the EU agrees with the sanctions: Cyprus, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Spain, for example. The loudest critic, though, is Greece. In January, the new far-left government delayed an agreement on new sanctions against Russia. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias stated Greece “wanted to prevent a rift between Russia and the EU.”
However, as the EU announced the sanctions, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Putin twice in the last three months. They allegedly spoke about ways “to sidestep their Western neighbors’ sanctions and censure.” Tsipras also blamed the EU for the crisis in Greece.
“The EU should go back to its initial principles of solidarity and social justice,” Tsipras told Russian oligarchs at a meeting. “Ensuring strict economic measures is leading us nowhere. The so-called problem of Greece is the problem of the whole European Union.”