Since March 2014, Reed Smith has been closely monitoring developments relating to the situation in the Ukraine and reporting them as Client Alerts and blog updates.

We have set out below a brief summary of the EU’s decision of 20 March 2015 to effectively leave in place the sanctions imposed last year against Russia.

EU agrees to keep Russian sanctions in place The EU originally imposed sanctions against Russia in response to its actions in Crimea and Ukraine. EU leaders, who gathered for a summit in Brussels on 20 March 2015, have now agreed to tie the sanctions to the recent cease-fire deal reached in Minsk, Belarus. At the same time, a formal legal decision on whether or not to extend the sanctions has been postponed until June 2015.

The Minsk agreement called, among other things, for Ukraine to regain full control of its territorial borders (excluding Crimea) by 31 December 2015. By tying the sanctions to this agreement the leaders have, in essence, made it highly unlikely that there will be any ending or rolling back of the sanctions before the decision in June. The linkage may, however, allow some EU countries to ease sanctions somewhat if Russia takes action to reduce tension before the year-end deadline.

It should be noted that this agreement relates only to the broad, restrictive measures against Russia’s banking, energy and defence interests. The EU had already separately agreed to extend sanctions on individuals and firms involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea up until 15 September 2015.

At the summit, strong divisions emerged once again between EU member states, with countries like the Baltic states and the UK pushing for the sanctions to stay in place, while countries like Austria, Italy and Greece expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of the sanctions regime.