EU leaders have agreed to extend diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, after a videoconference meeting of EU leaders, Merkel criticized Russia for not taking sufficient steps to implement the 2015 Minsk agreement, aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“In today’s European Council meeting we decided to extend these sanctions for another six months,” Merkel said.
The sanctions were first imposed in 2014 in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and were later expanded due to Moscow’s reluctance to fully implement the Minsk agreement. Most of the sanctions target Russia’s finance and energy sectors, as well as its arms industry.
The EU, the UN General Assembly, and Turkey all view Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal.
Ukraine also blames the Kremlin for separatist violence in eastern Ukraine near the border with Russia. Some 13,000 people have been killed in that conflict, a quarter of them civilians, and as many as 30,000 wounded, the UN said last year.
Asked whether the EU would consider heavier sanctions against Russia amid recent tensions between Berlin and Moscow, Merkel said Germany reserves the right to react, and talks with European partners are still ongoing.
On Thursday, German prosecutors accused Russia of murdering a Chechen asylum-seeker in Berlin, exacerbating already strained relations between the two countries.
Last month, Merkel said Russia was behind a 2015 cyber-attack that targeted computers in her office, and offices of parliamentarians in the Bundestag.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied the accusations.