00:50 - Source: CNN
White House: US not easing sanctions on Russia
CNN  — 

Moscow responded “negatively and with regret” to the European Union’s decision to extend economic sanctions on Russia, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, quoting the Kremlin.

“Nobody has abolished the principle of reciprocity,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, answering a question on whether Russia would keep countermeasures in response to the EU decision.

The European Union formally extended its economic sanctions Wednesday on various sectors of the Russian economy. The renewed sanctions will be effective until January 31, 2018, the European Council said.

The decision comes after last week’s update from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the European Council on the implementation of the Minsk agreements framed to halt the war in Eastern Ukraine. Germany and France have been acting as mediators for the talks.

The EU sanctions were originally imposed in July 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the destabilizing of the situation in Donbas in Eastern Ukraine. The measures target the financial, energy and defense sectors, as well as specific individuals and entities.

There are 150 individuals and 37 entities subject to EU restrictive measures, such as visa bans and asset freezes.

Moscow denies direct involvement in the conflict and says it does not support the separatists.

United States also tightens sanctions

Earlier in June, the United States also tightened its sanctions on Russia, striking another blow to the already strained relations between the two superpowers.

Two Russian government officials were among 38 people and entities who have been added to the US sanctions list.

The Treasury Department said the decision was consistent with the US commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine and that sanctions won’t be lifted until Russia leaves Crimea.

“This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Speaking on Wednesday at a news conference with his German counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he hopes the dialogue between Washington and Moscow could be normalized. Lavrov said US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have the chance to meet face to face at the G20 summit in Germany next week and discuss various topics.

Uncertain peace

As the conflict entered its fourth year, warring parties in Eastern Ukraine repeatedly failed to implement ceasefire agreements, allowing hostilities to escalate, the United Nations said.

The death toll since the start of the fighting has exceeded 10,000, according to the latest UN numbers.

The UN said ceasefire violations and routine use of small arms and heavy weapons in the conflict zone are reported daily.

Critical infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water facilities, has been seriously damaged, raising further concerns for the protection and well-being of civilians.