The EU has extended its sanctions against Russia for a year as part of Brussels’ response to Moscow’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea, including its strategic Black Sea port city of Sevastopol.
In its statement, the European Council said it had “extended the restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia until June 23, 2019,” the announcement said in reference to Crimea’s strategic port city had served as the joint headquarters of both the Ukrainian and Russian Black Sea fleets prior to Moscow’s occupation of the peninsula in March 2014
According to the announcement, the measures apply to EU citizens and European-based companies and are limited to Crimea. The sanctions include bans on imports of products from Crimea into the EU; direct investment into the region, meaning that Europeans and EU-based companies are barred from buying real estate or entities in Crimea, and cannot finance companies or supply related services to that are owned or operate on the peninsula.
European cruise ships are also barred from using Crimea’s ports, except in case of emergency, according to the Council’s decisions. Exports of goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in Crimea by the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors and related to the exploration and production of oil, gas and mineral resources have also been embargoed.
Russia sent troops into Crimea in February 2014 only days after Ukraine’s EuroMaidan Revolution ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. With the help of local supporters and Russia’s FSB intelligence services, Moscow held an internationally unrecognised referendum on the peninsula joining the Russian Federation that saw the majority of the Russian-speaking population vote in favour of unification with Russia.
The referendum was boycotted by the region’s Ukrainian and indigenous Tatar populations, both of whom opposed Russia’s occupation of the peninsula.
The European Parliament rejected the outcome of the referendum, which they said was a blatant violation of international law. The EU later suspended talks with Russia on economic and visa-related matters and imposed sanctions against Moscow that included asset freezes.