At the EU Summit in Brussels the leaders agreed to prolong economic sanctions against Russia until the end of January, the sanctions were imposed in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine against the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. (Image above: Crimea bridge).
“Russia sanctions unanimously extended for another six months because of a lack of Minsk Agreements implementation,” wrote in his Twitter micro blog the spokesman, Preben Aman, .
On 21 December 2018, the European Council prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 July 2019.
This decision follows an update from President Macron and Chancellor Merkel to the European Council of 13-14 December 2018 on the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements, to which the sanctions are linked. Given that no progress has been made, the European Council took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.
The West should either recognize the results of Crimea referendum on reunification with Russia, or stop imposing sanctions against people living in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his traditional annual news conference on December 20.
In his words, “it is a curious situation” as Russia is being accused of Crimea’s annexation or in the other words of taking Crimea by force. “But if it was annexation and forcible takeover, then people living in Crimea have nothing to do with that,” he noted. “And if it was their choice in voting, then it was not annexation whatsoever.”
However not all the political forces in the EU share the European Council point of view: since 2014 Marine Le Pen, the leader of French RN (former Front National) has not seen any reason to dispute the result of the referendum.
“I see no grounds whatsoever to question this referendum,” she said. She also added that she regards Crimea as a integral part of Russia. According to TASS News Agency Marine Le Pen “hopes to visit Crimea in April” 2019.
At European Union Summit in Brussels the leaders unanimously endorsed the prolongation of the economic sanctions against Russia for its actions against Ukraine for another six months with the official rollover expected next week.
The sanctions, mainly targeting the Russian banking and energy sectors, were first imposed in the summer of 2014 in aftermath of Maidan revolution in Ukraine and have been extended every six months since then.
“EU unanimously prolongs economic sanctions against Russia given zero progress in implementation of Minsk agreements,” European Council President Donald Tusk wrote in his Twitter micro blog referring to peace accords brokered by Germany and France in the Minsk, Belarus capital, aiming to end ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
‘In a short term, the impact of oil prices is much more important for Russia than any sanctions,” said Sergey Khestanov (Сергей Хестанов), a professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) . Oil income makes up 40% of federal budget revenues and is trading at its highest level in more than four years.
Sakharov Prizie winner Oleg Sentsov cousin Natalya Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze represented him during the ceremony in Strasbourg Sentsov was not in the Parliament to collect the award in person, because he remains in prison in Siberia.
“Oleg Sentsov was nominated for his peaceful protest against the illegal occupation of his native Crimea. Also for his courage, determination and his convictions in support of human dignity, democracy, the rule of law and human rights; these are the values on which our Union is built, even more after the terrible attack of yesterday, values that this Parliament cherishes, upholds and promotes.” the Parliament President Antonio Tajani said, while awarding the Prize.
“Sentsov’s hunger strike and courageous public stance made him a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” he added. Noting that the award comes against a backdrop of serious tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Tajani called for a de-escalation of the situation and reiterated support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The President called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and the Crimean peninsula as well as other imprisoned laureates: “The Sakharov Prize is not only an award. It is a commitment. And we keep standing close by our laureates.”
“The tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait have increased dangerously today, after an incident this morning between Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels as the latter were attempting to pass through the Kerch strait as well as subsequent developments, including the closure of the strait for traffic by Russian authorities and reported seizures of Ukrainian vessels and shots being fired at them.” says the statemeent of the European External Action Service spokesperson.
“We expect Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch strait and urge all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately.”
“As clearly stated by the High Representative at the European Parliament recently, the events in the Sea of Azov are a demonstration of how instability and tensions are bound to rise when the basic rules of international cooperation are disregarded. The construction of the Kerch Bridge took place without Ukraine’s consent and constitutes another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has led, in parallel with the militarisation of the Azov Sea, to tougher controls on naval traffic in the strait. The European Union expects Russia to stop the inspections.”
“The EU does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia”
This week the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and the leaders of the political groups during the Conference of Presidents meeting will select this year’s winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from among the three finalists. The prize will be awarded in a ceremony in Strasbourg on 12 December.
The biggest political group – the European Peoples Party (EPP) – has nominated Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who was sentenced for 20 years’ imprisonment by a Russian court on charges of plotting terrorist acts against Russian authorities in Crimea, in a process deemed unfair by human rights watchdogs.
On 14 May, Sentsov went on hunger strike, lasting over 100 days, to call for the release of around 70 other Ukrainian citizens who are to his opinion illegally arrested and convicted to long prison sentences by Russian judges.
A powerful blast in a college in the Crimean city of Kerch (pictured), claimed lives of at least 10 young people and injured more than 50. Initially accidental gas leakage has been presumed as a cause of explosion, but shorty afterwards the investigators revealed an explosive device was used.
Crimean emergency services and ambulances started to arrive shortly after the blast was heard. The injured have been rushed to local hospitals. The majority of those injured are reportedly in serious condition and medical students have flocked to the hospitals offering their help, while locals rushed to offer blood donations.
AMENDED: Blast in Crimea college was terror attack, explosive device was filled with shrapnel, investigators said, according to RT TV channel.
AMENDED: There were two explosions according to local media, before the detonation armed people were rushing though the building and shooting. Death toll is growing to 13 people, but some reporters insist on 18.
The suspect in the Kerch college attack has been identified as a 22-year-old student. He committed suicide after killing 18 people and injuring dozens with gunfire and a blast the head of the Republic of Crimea has said.
“The suspected murderer shot himself,” Sergey Aksenov told the media. He was a senior student of the same college.”
The official added that the number of people killed in the attack, which is reportedly mostly made up of students, has risen to 18. Earlier, witnesses claimed there were multiple masked attackers involved, but Aksenov didn’t mention any possible accomplices.
Russia’s investigative committee has named the suspect as Vladislav Roslyakov and said he was 18 rather than 22. It added the incident was now considered a multiple homicide rather than a terrorist attack.