Reuters International

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini speaks during the seventh U.S.–E.U. Energy Security Council in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expects sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine to be renewed in July, she told a German newspaper on Thursday.

Asked by Die Welt in an interview if sanctions expiring in July would be extended, the former Italian foreign minister said: "I expect so."

In a text of her English-language answers provided by her office, Mogherini added: "EU heads of state or government had tied the lifting of the sanctions to a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. So far, this has not been reached."

Some EU countries have suggested sanctions might be eased in July in an effort to defuse tension with Moscow even though a peace deal struck at Minsk early last year has not ended the conflict in eastern Ukraine. But Mogherini said EU policy would not change yet, although later this year there should be a "substantive political evaluation" of how to move forward.

"There have always been different opinions on some elements of our sanction policy," she said.

"It will probably stay that way. But in spite of the differences, the unity was also always there. What is important is that we keep this unity and decide all together."

The 28-strong EU needs unanimity to extend the economic sanctions, which were first introduced in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Kiev and expanded when Moscow was accused of backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonalda and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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