07:31 GMT17 January 2021
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    Blast at Kerch Polytechnic College (18)

    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The EU must maintain its sanctions on Russia until there is progress on implementing the Minsk agreements and will decide on whether to introduce new sanctions based on the situation in the Sea of Azov, Belgian Foreign Minister Reynders said.

    "Regular sanctions policy should be pursued. There's no reason to change anything in this policy while there's no progress in Minsk agreements [implementation]. We are ready to consider whether we should go further judging by the situation, but it is important to restore peace in the Sea of Azov and to ensure guaranteed freedom of navigation," Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters on Monday ahead of the EU foreign ministers' talks in Brussels, set to start later on Monday.

    He specified that the European Union was currently focused on finding "the best way" to put pressure on Russia in order to ensure free navigation and access to Ukrainian ports.

    READ MORE: EU Members Lack Common Position on Sanctions Over Kerch Strait Incident — Source

    The minister's comments come after three ships of the Ukrainian Navy — Berdyansk, Nikopol, and Yany Kapu — breached the Russian border on November 25, entered Russian territorial waters that were temporarily closed, and began moving toward the Kerch Strait, which serves as an entrance into the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian vessels and their crew were detained by Russia after failing to respond to a lawful demand to stop.

    The Council of the European Union issued a declaration calling on all parties to the conflict to commit to restraint and de-escalation, while no possible restrictive measures related to the conflict have been mentioned.

    Relations between Russia and the West have long been tense over Moscow's alleged role in the conflict in the east of Ukraine, which has prompted to the European Union to introduce sanctions against Russia. Despite Minsk peace agreements, set to put end to conflict between Ukrainian government and the country's eastern breakaway republics, no significant progress has been reached.

    Blast at Kerch Polytechnic College (18)


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    sanctions, Minsk protocol, Ukrainian Navy, Council of the European Union, Didier Reynders, EU, Russia, Azov Sea
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