Obama Prolongs Sanctions on Russia Over Ukraine Crisis

The sanctions, to be extended another year, have damaged Russia.

MOSCOW — -- President Obama has extended for another year U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine, according to a White House statement.

Referred to as "targeted sanctions,” the measures are meant to inflict discomfort on the Kremlin leadership as well as hurt Russian state companies, intended to express U.S. disapproval and to deter Moscow from further land-grabs.

The United States has said that the lifting of the sanctions is tied to the fulfillment of the so-called Minsk peace agreements, signed in early 2015. Part of those agreements require Moscow to help Ukraine’s government regain control over its borders in the areas held by the rebels and for local elections to be held there, but so far there has been minimal progress towards this.

The United States has accused Moscow of continuing to support the rebels with money and weapons.

Russia has called the sanctions unjustified. A spokesman for Putin, Dmitrii Peskov, said today the Kremlin "regretted" Obama’s decision to prolong the sanctions regime. Moscow has retaliated to the European Union sanctions by banning many food imports from the bloc, including gourmet cheeses.

Perhaps even more damaging for the Russian economy, the sanctions have significantly chilled foreign investment in the country, with many investors wary that Russia may be headed into further economic isolation and spooked that another geopolitical crisis might lie in wait for Moscow.

Even companies not directly affected by the sanctions have curtailed their business and many Russian companies are struggling to attract investment or foreign partnerships.

The E.U. will review its own sanctions in June, with some members of the bloc pushing for the sanctions to be eased. The U.S. extension of its own measures is now expected to harden resolve among some European countries to resist this.