E.U. to extend sanctions on Russia

Jan 28, 2015, 7:28 AM EST
People ride a Ukrainian tank past a damaged vehicle in the village of Tonenke, some 5 kilometers from the Donetsk airport on January 19, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

The European Union will extend by six months sanctions imposed on Russia last March over its annexation of Crimea, add new people to those under sanctions and prepare new measures, draft conclusions for an EU foreign ministers meeting showed.

According to Reuters, EU foreign ministers will meet on Thursday in Brussels for emergency talks to address renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine and an offensive by Russian-backed separatists.

"In view of the worsening situation, the Council agrees to extend the restrictive measures targeting persons and entities for threatening or undermining Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, adopted in March 2014 and subsequently updated, until September 2015," the draft conclusions said.

More heavy shelling also has been reported by Reuters. The Ukrainian military said nine of its soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours as fighting raged at several points in eastern Ukraine. The military, quoted by Ukraine's Unian news agency, said there had been heavy rebel mortar and artillery fire near the town of Debaltseve and the village of Luhanskaya.

Pro-Russian separatist forces said on Tuesday they had pushed Ukrainian government troops out of two districts on the outskirts of their main stronghold Donetsk, and their aim was to expand their control to the entire region.

A rebel advance launched last week has dashed a five-month truce, reignited a war that has killed more than 5,000 people and brought threats of new sanctions on Moscow, which NATO accuses of backing the separatists with money, arms and troops.

The separatists say their initial objective is to drive back government forces to push artillery out of range of their cities and improve their grip on their main strongholds. Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the rebels in Donetsk, said fighters had repelled government troops from the suburb of Maryinka and the center of the town of Pesky near Donetsk's airport, a constant battlefield.