The FINANCIAL -- BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders have agreed to extend the bloc’s economic sanctions penalizing Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.
The green light came during a dinner at an EU summit in Brussels early on June 29, and it will now be up to EU ambassadors to rubber stamp the decision in the weeks to come.
Both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the leaders to agree to roll over the sanctions after giving an update on the state of implementation of the Minsk peace accords.
Despite many efforts at establishing a lasting cease-fire in Ukraine, the pact reached in the Belarusian capital in 2015 outlining a path to peace has never been fully carried out by either side, according to RFE/RL.
The sanctions, which mainly hit Russia's banking and energy sectors, were first imposed in the summer of 2014 after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and began fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine by backing separatists fighting government forces there.
More than 10,300 people have been killed in the conflict, and EU leaders have said the sanctions won't be lifted unless Russia and other parties to the conflict make progress toward carrying out the Minsk deal.
The sanctions have been renewed every six months since 2014.
In a summit statement, the EU leaders also reiterated their "full support" for a UN resolution on the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing over 200 people on board.
An official investigation concluded that a Russian Buk missile system that was based at a Russian military base was used to shoot down the aircraft. Russia denies any responsibility.
The EU statement calls on Russia to "accept its responsibility and fully cooperate with all efforts to establish truth, justice, and accountability" in response to the incident.