NEW: The Kremlin calls the sanctions "unfounded and illegal"
The situation in Ukraine reflects a broader tug of war between East and West
The sanctions were imposed a year ago
European Union foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg extended sanctions against Russia imposed because of the country’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, an EU spokeswoman has told CNN.
The sanctions were imposed a year ago to punish Russia for its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its military support for separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, which border Russia.
The sanctions consist of asset freezes on some Russian companies and people as well as travel bans against certain officials.
A Kremlin spokesman condemned the extension of the sanctions.
“Russia, naturally, considers these sanctions to be unfounded and illegal, and we have never been the instigators of sanction measures,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists.
Peskov said Russia would respond by extending measures against the European Union, which include restrictions on the import to Russia of foodstuffs from the EU.
The Kremlin spokesman said the restrictive measures undermine the interest of EU taxpayers.
Upheaval started with rejection of EU agreement
The sanctions, and the events that preceded their imposition, reflect the tug of war between East and West over the future of Ukraine – and the divisions within the country as well, between ethnic Russians and Ukrainian speakers who want closer ties with the European Union.
The turmoil began in earnest when President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian speaker, decided not to sign an agreement for closer ties with the EU, as he had planned. Instead, he opted for closer ties with Russia.
His about-face led to mass protests, and he was driven from office in February 2014.
But his ouster provoked resentment and secessionist sentiment in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, leading to Crimea’s annexation by Russia and bloodshed in the east – where secessionists were supported, according to Western officials, by the Russian military.
The conflict has not yet been resolved.
The pull between East and West, and between ethnic Russians and longer-term natives, is evident in many former Soviet republics, in an arc stretching from Moldova in the south to Latvia in the north.