BRUSSELS -- EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on December 13 said economic sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine will be prolonged for another six months with the official rollover expected next week.
The sanctions, which mainly target the Russian banking and energy sectors, were first imposed in the summer of 2014 and have been extended every six months since then.
"EU unanimously prolongs economic sanctions against Russia given zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements," European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted from the summit, referring to peace accords brokered by Germany and France in the Belarusian capital to end conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions came in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 over the past four-and-a-half-years.
The measures were due to expire next month but lifting them depends on whether the EU considers that Russia is respecting the Minsk peace agreements.
EU leaders also discussed an incident in the Sea of Azov last month in which Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships and 24 crewmen.
They also adopted conclusions that do not condemn Moscow for the incident nor do they call for more sanctions, but state that "The EU stands ready to adopt measures to strengthen further its support, including in favor of the affected areas of Ukraine."
The conclusions also state that "there is no justification for the use of military force by Russia," adding that "the European Council requests the immediate release of all detained Ukrainian seamen as well as the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Strait [between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea]."
On December 10, the EU blacklisted nine individuals involved in the organization elections last month in the areas controlled by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In a meeting in Brussels, the EU's foreign ministers said the individuals were added to the bloc's sanctions list because of their "actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine."
Kyiv and its international backers, including the EU and the United States, have denounced the November 11 polls in the areas held by the separatists in the Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk regions as a sham.