Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Russia sanctions extended
U.S. commits arms, aircraft, troops for new NATO force
European Union officials plan to maintain economic restrictions until January to pressure Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine.
LUXEMBOURG — The European Union on Monday extended economic sanctions against Russia until January to keep pressure on Moscow over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, drawing a rebuke and a warning of retaliation from Russian officials.
An EU statement said the decision was made without debate by the bloc’s foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg, in response to “Russia’s destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine.”
The sanctions, along with U.S. and other Western measures against Russia, have contributed to a softening of the Russian economy at a time when the price of oil, which is crucial to its economic output, has also fallen.
The sanctions include limits to access on some financial markets, a ban on certain technologies and exchanges between the bloc and Russia in energy and defense sectors. Enacted last July and reinforced in September, the sanctions had been due to expire in July. They are now expected to expire on Jan. 31.
In response, Russia is expected to extend its ban on the import of many agricultural products from the EU, which was imposed as a countermeasure to the EU sanctions.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russianbacked rebels has killed more than 6,400 people in eastern Ukraine and persists despite a cease-fire agreed to in February that calls for the pullback of heavy weapons.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it was “deeply disappointed that once again in the EU, the view of the Russophobic lobby has prevailed” in the extension of the “illegal restrictions.”
Also Monday, the U.S. committed to contribute weapons, aircraft and forces, including commandos, as needed for NATO’s new rapid reaction force, to help Europe defend against potential Russian aggression and the Islamic State and other violent extremists.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the specifics of American contributions to the rapid reaction force a year after President Barack Obama made a commitment to such assistance at the NATO summit last year in Wales.