The European Union flags flutter in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct. 12, 2012. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)
BRUSSELS, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- The European Union on Thursday officially prolonged its economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy for another six months, despite repeated warnings from Moscow it would worsen relations.
The Council of the European Union unanimously formalized the extension, based on an update from French and German leaders to the European Council last week. They said the Minsk agreements had still not been fully implemented.
The measures limit access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for five major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defense companies.
The export and import ban on trade in arms will continue; so will the export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia.
The sanctions also curtail Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration, the EU said in a release.
In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine, including targeted individual restrictive measures, namely a visa ban and an asset freeze, currently against 50 people and 38 entities until March 15, 2018.
Western nations have imposed sanctions against a number of Russian officials and companies citing Russia's intervention in Crimea in March 2014.
The EU slapped sanctions on Russia in July and September 2014 in response to an alleged role that Russia had played in conflicts in east Ukraine. In March 2015, EU leaders decided to align existing sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
In response, Russia imposed an embargo on food imports from Western countries in August 2014. Following several extensions, the import ban is due to expire at the end of 2018.
Moscow has continuously expressed its "deep regret" over EU sanctions, warning it reserved the right to retaliate.
In a statement issued in early August after EU expanded its sanction list, Russian Foreign Ministry accused Brussels of violating both international laws and principles, considering the step as both "unfriendly and unjustified".
"Responsibility for this decision, including the possible economic costs, as well as European companies operating in Russia, lies entirely with the EU and the German government," it said.
Western sanctions are a double-edged sword as Western countries lose more than Russia does, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a press conference this year.