Russian sanctions likely to be extended - Foreign Minister

Releasing Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was a "sporadic act" by Russia, which still hasn't taken the necessary steps to solve the conflict in Ukraine. That's why it's likely that the West will extend the anti-Russia sanctions in June, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told Latvian Radio in a Thursday interview.

Freeing Savchenko was only one step, and several points of the Minsk agreement haven't been fulfilled--such as handing control of the Russian–Ukrainian border to Ukraine--while several have been fulfilled only partially. For example, even though a ceasefire has been announced, armed confrontations take place each day in Donbas, said Rinkēvičs.

"Lifting sanctions is possible only when the Minsk agreement will be fulfilled," said the Latvian Foreign Minister.

He said that there are other Russian citizens in Ukraine that have not been freed, and while releasing Savchenko is a welcome step, it's no reason to cause a significant turn in relations with Russia.

Rinkēvičs said that sanctions are likely to be continued, judging by what has been said in EU and NATO Foreign Ministers' meetings.

He also called the exchange of Savchenko a "sporadic act", saying that only time will tell whether Russia is ready to normalize the situation in Donbas.

In February 2014 Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula, part of Ukraine. In March, Crimea was illegally annexed.

Russia has also been backing a separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine.

In response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the EU, the United States, and other Western countries have imposed sanctions against Russia's top officials, Kremlin associates, and Russia's financial, defense, and energy sectors.

On 21 December 2015, the Council of the European Union prolonged economic sanctions against Russia until 31 July 2016. In March the United States extended sanctions for another year.

Russian counter-sanctions prohibit the import of EU food products.

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