EU Extends Sanctions on Russia Over War in Ukraine
By VOA News June 20, 2019
The European Union has extended economic sanctions against Russia over the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and demands Russian cooperation with the probe into the shootdown of a Malaysian passenger jet.
"Russia sanctions are unanimously extended for another six months because of a lack of Minsk Agreements implementation," an EU spokesman said Thursday.
He was referring to the 2014 deal that was intended to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces.
Separate sanctions banning the EU from doing businesses in Russian-annexed Crimea were renewed for another year. The EU also says it is considering a measure to refuse to recognize Russian passports issued in eastern Ukraine.
EU leaders are also demanding Russia "cooperate fully" with the Dutch-led investigation into the 2014 shootdown of a Malaysian passenger jet over eastern Ukraine that killed 298.
Prosecutors Wednesday charged three Russians — Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov — and a Ukrainian, Leonid Karchenko, with murder.
"The European Council reiterates its full support for all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability for the victims and their next of kin," EU leaders said, adding they had full confidence in the independence and professionalism of the investigators.
Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said in The Hague that even though the suspects might not have "pushed the button themselves, there is suspicion that they have closely cooperated in gaining possession of the missile launcher that shot down the jetliner."
Investigators used wiretaps, radar images and social media to zero in on the suspects.
Westerbeke said the probe must go "as far as we can ... it's important to know who can be held responsible for this absolute tragedy."
Dutch prosecutors say the trial will open next March in The Hague. But all four suspects are unlikely to see the inside of a Western courtroom. Both Russia and Ukraine protect their citizens from extradition. Russia has also denied any involvement in shooting down the plane and accused investigators of using "dubious sources of information."
Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Investigators say a missile from a Russian anti-aircraft brigade hit the plane. They believe Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels likely mistook the passenger plane for a Ukrainian military jet. Russia insists the Ukrainian military fired the missile.
Russia supports Ukrainian rebels fighting the government in Kyiv but denies sending soldiers and heavy weapons to the rebels in eastern Ukraine.
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