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EU to agree extending economic sanctions on Russia until mid-2018

BRUSSELS, Dec 12 (Reuters) - European Union leaders will agree on Thursday to prolong for another six months the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia, imposed over the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and Moscow's support for rebels in east Ukraine.

The main sanctions, which target Russia's energy, defence and financial sectors, would otherwise be due to expire at the end of January 2018. EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will agree an extension until mid-2018, officials and diplomats in Brussels said.

Moscow says it will never return Crimea, which it annexed in 2014 in a move that has not been recognised internationally. Western countries say Russia has also been providing a lifeline to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Peter Graff)