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BRUSSELS, March 20. /TASS/. The European Union summit made a political decision to support sanctions against the Russian Federation until the Minsk agreements are implemented in full, European Council President Donald Tusk said Friday.
"This evening, we discussed Ukraine and Russia. Leaders decided to align our sanctions regime to the implementation of the Minsk agreements brokered by (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel and (French) President (Francois) Hollande," Tusk said after the first day of the European Council’s meeting.
"The European Council agreed that the duration of economic sanctions will be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, bearing in mind that this is only foreseen by the end of 2015," he said.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March 2014 after the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July 2014, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
New large-scale punitive measures against Russia followed in September and December 2014.
Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Regular talks of the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group on east Ukrainian settlement comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were held in the Belarusian capital Minsk on February 10-12. Talks of the Normandy Four (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) leaders on the Ukrainian issue also ended February 12 in Minsk.
A 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements was adopted at the February talks.
The package in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of a special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.