The closed-door decision is still subject to final approval from the bloc' senior leaders. But EU diplomats claim the move was not expected to be altered. The prospective extension of sanctions targets Russia's energy, financial and defense sectors, strictly curtailing the trade that EU businesses are allowed to conduct with Russian counterparts.
The toughest sanctions were first imposed after July 2014 shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 airliner over separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Shortly after the annexation of Crimea, the West imposed sanctions against Russia.
Various justifications for sanctions extension have been presented stating that Russia should be penalised for her annexation of Crimea. The West is unwilling to go to war over Ukraine but merely denouncing Russia's actions is too weak. This begs the question: under what conditions will sanctions be lifted? If only be Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine, then the sanctions are effectively permanent. Local support for reunification with Russia is more than 90% and given the situation in eastern Ukraine, the Crimean people would not accept a return to their former governors. The Sevastopol naval base is also of great strategic and nostalgic importance to Russia.
A second explanation offered is that sanctions-extension are necessary to prevent Russia from invading other parts of the former Soviet Union, Poland or Nordic states. It is difficult to refute the counterfactual, but from the Russian viewpoint, their actions in Ukraine were motivated by a coup d’état in Kiev that was encouraged by foreign powers and which threatened Russia’s vital security interests and the well-being of the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine. The Russian course of action was defensive, not offensive. Had Russia wished to take Kiev, she could easily have done so. There is no indication that this was ever intended, and it is certainly not the sanctions that prevent such action.