14:27 GMT20 January 2021
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The leaders of the European Union have voted to prolong economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, the European Council said on Thursday. Existing sanctions expire on 31 July. They concern financial, energy and defence sectors.

    "The EU remains steadfast in its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty & territorial integrity 5 years after Russia’s illegal annexation of #Crimea & #Sevastopol. EU leaders just agreed to extend economic sanctions against Russia for another 6 months #EUCO", the EU Council said on Twitter.

    Earlier on Thursday, the bloc extended sanctions on Russia for what it considers to the "annexation" of Crimea, until June 2020. The restrictions include bans on imports of goods produced in Crimea and on investment in the region.

    Russia has repeatedly stressed that the reunification was done via a referendum, in accordance with the international legal framework.

    European leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday for a major two-day summit to discuss those best equipped for top posts for the bloc, as well as sanctions against Russia, climate change, global security and other issues.

    Russian-EU relations soured in 2014 when the bloc, along with the United States, imposed economic sanctions on Moscow over the armed conflict in Ukraine’s east. Russia has denied any role in the fighting and retaliated by imposing a food embargo on those Western nations that targeted it with sanctions.

    According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures, Idriss Jazairy, the European Union has suffered greater losses than Russia as a result of sanctions, as the latter has mitigated the effects of the restrictions by boosting domestic production. In March, Jazairy said that applying sanctions that were costing the Europeans more than for the Russians was "crazy" and called upon the sides to find other ways to overcome their differences.


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