European foreign ministers agreed on Monday to extend economic sanctions on Russia -- introduced in response to Moscow's "deliberate destabilization" of Ukraine and "illegal annexation" of Crimea -- until 31 January 2016.
The decision was ratified on Monday and gives the region more time to see whether Russia will implement its side of a ceasefire and peace plan with Ukraine, where it is accused of supporting a pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country, although it denies the charge.
A Kremlin spokesman said the sanctions were unfounded and that Russia was sticking to its policy of reciprocity, Reuters reported – that is, its own retaliatory ban on European imports.
In March, European leaders agreed to link the duration of these sanctions to the complete implementation of a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia, called the "the Minsk agreements," by the end of the year.
However, there has recently been an uptick in violence in the region, raising fears that the fragile ceasefire hangs in the balance.