The European Union has paved the way to extend its sanctions programme against Russia today, announcing the ban on doing business with the Russian-annexed parts of Crimea will stay in place for another year.
Sanctions were imposed on Russia in the aftermath of its invasion of Crimea and the ensuing instability in Ukraine. Today's decision bans all imports from and investment into Crimea for another year, while also blocking most travel in the region until 23 June 2017.
The EU will decide next week whether to extend its broader regime of sanctions against Russia, which targets key sectors of the economy such as the energy industry, which are vital to the Russian economy and controlled by allies of Vladimir Putin. Brussels-watchers have reported that some diplomats would like the regime to be softened.
Putin said today that he stood ready to compromise with the EU in an attempt to bring the sanctions to an action. "We do not hold a grudge and are ready to meet our European partners halfway," Putin told the St. Petersburg economic forum, Russia's answer to the World Economic Forum's annual Davos gathering.
"But it certainly cannot be a one-way game."
Yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, travelled to St. Petersburg to meet Vladimir Putin for a one-on-one meeting for the first time since the sanctions were introduced. Juncker said it was important to keep an open dialogue between the two sides despite the fact relations had become so strained.