NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The European Union is keeping the pressure firmly on the Russian economy as turbulence continues in eastern Ukraine.
Sanctions have now been extended until the end of January, adding six months of trade and investment curbs. Foreign ministers approved the decision Monday in Luxembourg.
The restrictions prohibit financing for major Russian banks and any sale of weapons, and they also restrict a number of Russian exports. Both Russia and the EU have also imposed travel bans on selected individuals and organizations.
EU officials argued that the extended sanctions will allow time to see whether Russia has actively implemented a long-term ceasefire following February's Minsk agreement and peace plan. Russia came under scrutiny from Western powers last year following allegations that Moscow was arming and financing Russian separatist forces in Ukraine. Russia has also been accused of sending armed troops into the conflict. Vladimir Putin's government has denied the charges.
Sanctions have also been extended in Crimea for the next 12 months following Russia's annexation of the region in March of last year. The measures prevent investment in the area and also limit trade options.
Critics of the sanctions have said the measures have not put sufficient strain on Russia's economy to affect military decisions. EU officials argue that coupled with the drop in oil prices, the measures have pushed Russia into recession.
Russia retaliated with its own set of European sanctions, which officials estimate may have cost the EU around $5 billion.
Pressure is now mounting for a more long-term solution to the standoff with Moscow and Putin's government. Many of the Baltic states have expressed a desire to maintain sanctions on Russia and are weary of Russia's foreign policy strategy. Russian officials have called the sanctions unfounded and illegal.