The European Union on Monday rolled over for another year tough sanctions imposed over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The measures prohibit certain exports and imports, and ban investment and tourism services by EU-based companies in Crimea.
‘The Council (of EU member states) extended the restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia until 23 June 2019,’ the bloc said in a statement.
‘Four years on from the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, the EU reiterated that it does not recognise and continues to condemn this violation of international law.’
The sanctions were imposed in the wake of Russia's annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.
More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in eastern Ukraine in April 2014 following the annexation.
The EU insists Russia must be held to account for its support of the rebels.
But Moscow says Brussels is at fault for aiding the overthrow of a legitimate government in Kiev, referring to the ouster of a pro-Russian president in February 2014 after three months of sometimes deadly protests.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin welcomed the extension.
‘Grateful to our EU friends for annual roll-over of Crimea-related sanctions,’ he wrote on Twitter, urging the bloc to add sanctions against those responsible for ‘human rights violations’ in Crimea.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the extension saying Ukraine was ‘counting on the EU's tough stance on new security challenges from Russia’ and the issue would be discussed when he meets EU leaders in Brussels on July 9.
In addition to the Crimea measures, the EU has a range of other measures in place related to Russia's activities in Ukraine, including damaging economic sanctions and individual travel bans and asset freezes targeting more than 150 people.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border.
Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and gives open political support to the rebels.
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