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MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. Sanctions against Russia will not be eased before the Minsk Agreements are fully implemented, and Brussels’ position on this matter remains unchanged, EU Ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Usackas said on Friday.
Commenting on Rome’s decision to refuse the automatic extension of sanctions against Russia on December 9 and instead to put the issue up for discussion, Usackas said: "We share understanding of the obligations of all sides on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. "Our sanctions are lined to full implementation of Minsk [Agreements]. This means respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, holding local election in accordance with Ukrainian laws and guarding eastern borders by Ukrainian border control officers."
"I don’t think, I am almost confident that our position will remain unchanged. There will be no bargaining on Syria and Ukraine, one should not wait for New Year gifts," Usackas told the conference "Russia-EU: current relations and prospects." "There are, of course, inter-connected things but we will not make decisions not coordinated with Minsk [Agreements]," he noted.
Talking about Italy’s initiative, Usackas noted that "it is more of a procedural issue on which level voting will take place (on sanctions)."
The European Union (EU) sees no grounds yet to expand sanctions against Russia, Vygaudas Usackas went on to say.
"We will ask for the decision on lifting sanctions depending on the reason why these sanctions were introduced. At the moment we do not see grounds to expand sanctions," Usackas told the conference "Russia-EU: current relations and prospects." "The Minsk Agreements are not being implemented in full. On the other hand, there is no dramatic deterioration as well," he added.
On Wednesday ASNA news agency reported citing diplomatic sources in Brussels that Italy does not support automatic extension of restrictive measures imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis and insisted on discussing this issue.
The issue of extending sanctions against Russia has been put on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels on December 14 on Italy’s initiative, a European source close to the European Council told TASS on Wednesday. "The formal decision about extending restrictive measures against Russia should be made at the EU ambassador session this week but Italy insisted that the issue is included in the agenda for Monday," the source said.
The EU foreign ministers will make a political decision on whether to extend anti-Russian sanctions on Monday. If they do not reach an agreements, the issue will be put on the agenda of the EU summit scheduled for December 17-18 in Brussels.
Western media repeatedly wrote that EU leans toward extending sanctions against Russia as restrictive measures expire in January 2016. This position is dominant among EU member countries though France announced its intention to deepen cooperation with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization after terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13.
According to sources, the issue of expiration date of sanctions, if they are extended, remains open. "It is not known today for how long restrictive measures will be extended - maybe for three months, maybe for half a year," the sources said.
For incorporation of Crimea after last year’s coup in Ukraine, Russia came under sanctions on the part of the United States and many European countries. The restrictive measures were soon intensified following Western and Ukrainian claims that Russia supported militias in self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s southeast and was involved in destabilization of Ukraine.
As countermeasures, 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.
The Russian authorities have repeatedly denied accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as claims that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in Ukraine’s east.