The European Union on Monday extended its sanctions against Russia until March of 2016. The sanctions are meant to punish Moscow for its military support for Ukrainian separatists and its annexation of Crimea.
The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans against 149 people and 37 entities, the European Union announced in a statement. Without the EU action the sanctions would have lifted on Tuesday.
A separate set of European economic sanctions against Russia are in place until the end of January.
During the last month's cease-fire some European leaders speculated that sanctions could be pulled back. Thus French President François Hollande said that progress in Ukraine could set the stage for a relaxation of the sanctions.
But in a statement, EU officials said “assessment of the situation did not justify a change” in the sanctions.
European and U.S. officials have said the sanctions should remain in place to increase pressure on Russia to comply with the terms of the second Minsk accord signed last
The sanctions are connected both to the Russian annexation of the Crimea as well as its support for separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in the eastern part of the country.
That agreement put in place an oft-violated cease-fire, promised local elections and the removal of heavy weaponry. The accord also promises that the Ukrainian government in Kiev will have control of its borders by the end of the year, which U.S. experts have said is unlikely.
The sanctions target senior Russian advisers, lawmakers and rebel Ukrainian leaders and officials. Since they were first put in place, the EU sanctions haven’t affected Russian President Vladimir Putin or his top ministers.