FILE PHOTO: A billboard with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is displayed on a street in Kerch, Crimea, April 7, 2016. The board reads: “Crimea. Russia. Forever.” REUTERS/Andrew Osborn/File Photo
June 18, 2020
WARSAW (Reuters) – European Union leaders are expected on Friday to back extending the bloc’s main economic sanctions against Russia until the end of January, 2021, diplomatic sources and officials said.
The EU hit Russia’s energy, financial and arms sectors after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and went on to back rebels fighting Kyiv government troops in the east of the ex-Soviet republic.
It has rolled them over ever since as Moscow has vowed to never give Crimea back.
The curbs are now in place until the end of July, and the 27 national EU leaders holding a virtual meeting on Friday are expected to pave the way for another six-month extension, which would be formalised later this month, the sources said.
While some countries including Italy and Hungary would want to see a revival of economic ties with Russia, the bloc’s dovish wing has not had the upper hand recently as the EU was unnerved by what it has seen as Moscow’s disinformation over coronavirus.
Russia last month denied hacking the German parliament, allegations that further weigh on ideas by EU leaders including European Council President Charles Michel to seek cautious re-engagement with Moscow.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also recently called for Russia to be allowed back into the G7 club of leading economies, a seat Moscow lost over the conflict in Ukraine.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by William Maclean)