Brussels: The European Union on Monday extended for another six months damaging economic sanctions against Russia over its intervention in Ukraine.
EU leaders decided at a summit last week to roll over the sanctions first imposed in 2014 and the European Council, which groups the 28 member states, confirmed the decision today.
"The Council prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 July 2017," said the statement from the council.
The sanctions target the financial, energy, and defence sectors and items that could be used for both industrial and military means.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said last week they wanted the sanctions extended because Moscow was not living up to its Ukraine truce commitments.
They said there had been no progress in implementing the Minsk ceasefire accords which they helped broker between Ukraine and Russia, and so there was no option but to keep the measures in place.
The 28-nation EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
The sanctions have been rolled over regularly since then but several member states, led by Italy, have increasingly questioned their effectiveness and cost.
Donald Trump's shock US election victory added to the doubts given his apparently softer line on Russia, prompting a debate over whether they should be extended for six months or three.
The West says Russia supplies the rebels with military hardware and assistance, a charge Moscow denies although it says it does support their cause.
Besides the economic measures, which target Russia's oil, financial and military sectors, the EU has also imposed a separate series of travel bans and asset freeze sanctions against Ukraine and Russian figures deemed to have undermined Ukrainian territorial integrity. These sanctions expire in March.
Similar sanctions imposed over Russia's annexation of Crimea run until the end of June 20.