The European Union extended Friday for one year its economic sanctions against Russia.
The EU said in a statement that its restrictive measures imposed over what it called Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea has been extended until June 23, 2017.
The sanctions, which have been in place for the past two years, prohibit certain exports and imports, and ban investment and tourism services by EU-based companies to Crimea. Moscow defends Crimea’s rejoining Russia as legitimate, saying more than 90 percent of the people in the Black Sea peninsula voted in favor of rejoining in the referendum of 2014.
The Crimea sanctions do not include a separate set of visa ban and asset freeze sanctions, which have been imposed against individual Russian and Ukrainian figures for backing the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. These measures run until September.
Some members of the EU have criticized the rollover of the sanctions as the EU itself has suffered from Russia’s retaliatory measures which ban import of food products from certain EU states.
The extension announcement came just one day after EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg.
Putin has repeatedly insisted that Crimea will never return to Ukraine, calling EU’s sanctions over the case as pointless.
Putin said on Friday that Moscow was ready for a fresh start if the EU also played its part, stressing that it was the EU's introduction of sanctions which had led to the “collapse” in relations.
“We hold no grudge and are willing to reach out to our European partners but obviously this can't be a one-sided game,” Putin told a top economic forum in Saint Petersburg.