EU prolongs Russia sanctions over Ukraine, Russia to introduce food embargo on Ukraine

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The European Union agreed Dec. 21 to prolong damaging economic sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis for another six months amid sharp differences over relations with Moscow, while Russia will introduce a food embargo against Ukraine next month over Kiev's trade deal with the EU.

A statement issued by the council of all 28 member states said it took the decision because the peace accords, brokered in Minsk, Belarus, by France and Germany with Ukraine and Russia, would not be fully implemented by end of this year as required.

"Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by Dec. 31, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council [of member states] continues its assessment of progress in implementation," it said.

The decision was originally meant to have been a formality, with member country ambassadors supposedly approving the rollover in early December.

But it ended up delayed after several countries, especially Italy, raised questions about how the EU could both punish Russia over Ukraine yet still seek its help on key international issues, including the Syrian conflict.

Italy has traditionally close ties with Russia and wanted EU leaders at last week's summit in Brussels to discuss the issue, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi could not get it on the formal agenda despite his best efforts.

"I found it surprising that we should want to confirm the sanctions without first having had a little discussion," he said after the summit.

German plans to build a second pipeline - Nordstream 2 - to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea added to Renzi's frustration.

Russia lashed out at the European Union for prolonging sanctions over the Ukraine...

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