191210 Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin giving a press conference after a summit on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. Image Credit: AFP

Brussels: European Union leaders on Thursday extended punishing economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for another six months, senior EU officials said.

The move comes days after a four-way summit in Paris between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany failed to yield a major breakthrough in solving the five-year conflict.

The sanctions, which target whole sectors of the Russian economy including its valuable oil businesses, were extended to mid-2020.

“Prolongation of Russia sanctions is adopted,” a spokesman for EU Council President Charles Michel tweeted.

The measures over Russia’s role in the conflict were first imposed after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014 and have been renewed every six months ever since.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recently begun calling for moves towards thawing ties with Moscow, but so far the EU still insists the 2015 Minsk accords must be fully implemented before relations can be normalised.

The accords, endorsed by both Moscow and Kiev, aim to end the fighting and find a political solution for Ukraine’s separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said sanctions should be maintained “because Russia needs motivation to reach promises it made in the first stage of the negotiations”.

Monday’s Paris summit was only a “first step”, he said.

“I think there is much more needed in cooperation from Russia to have results,” he added.

“So far the concessions we see are coming from the side of Ukraine - I would like to see much more willingness from the side of Russia to see a final result.”

Thousands have been killed since pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014, kicking off a conflict that deepened Russia’s estrangement from the West.