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EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia until mid-2016

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union on Monday extended its economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine until the end of next July, drawing a swift rebuke from the Russian economy minister.

The EU has linked the lifting of the sanctions to full implementation of a peace deal in east Ukraine, where more than 9,000 people have been killed in fighting between Kiev’s forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels since April 2014.

Some diplomats say this might be the last time the punitive measures on Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors get rolled over in their entirety as France and some other EU states want to re-engage with Moscow on such issues as fighting terrorism and seeking an end to the war in Syria.

Others say there should be no rapprochement until the conditions of the peace agreement are met for Ukraine, where a political crisis that began in late 2013 has snowballed into the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

The sanctions were provisionally extended by EU envoys last Friday and were confirmed with the lapse of a noon deadline on Monday after no member state raised any objections.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said EU sanctions were “completely unacceptable and ineffective”.

“Gradually those countries that initiated the sanctions are realizing this and we see there’s a major discussion about it in Europe. Sooner or later, we expect common sense to prevail and a decision to be taken to revoke this,’ he said.

The sanctions, combined with weak global oil prices, have weighed on the Russian economy, which contracted by 4.1 percent year-on-year in the third quarter.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones