"I am confident that Europe and the United States are going to continue to stand united, both in sustaining sanctions for as long as they are necessary, and in providing needed assistance to Ukraine until the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine is protected through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements," Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference.
The Minsk accords to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine were signed by representatives of the government in Kiev and the Donbas militias in February 2015. Key points of the Minsk deal include a ceasefire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, constitutional reforms, including a decentralization of power in the country, and the granting of special status to the Donbas region.
Relations between Russia and the Western states went downhill in 2014, when Brussels joined Washington in accusing Moscow of fueling the Ukrainian crisis and imposed several rounds of sanctions as a punitive measure.
The Russian authorities have refuted the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive. In response to the Western restrictive measures, in August 2014, Russia announced a one-year food embargo on some products originating in states that imposed sanctions against it. The ban has since been extended for another year.
In late January 2016, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the European Union could discuss the lifting or easing of sanctions imposed on Russia in June if the Minsk deal on Ukrainian reconciliation is implemented. Several European leaders have previously made similar statements.