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EU agrees to extend economic sanctions on Russia until mid-2018

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to prolong for another six months the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia, imposed over the annexation of Ukraine's peninsula of Crimea and Moscow's support for rebels in east Ukraine.

The sanctions, which target Russia's energy, defence and financial sectors, would otherwise expire at the end of January 2018.

Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, said the 28 were "united on roll-over of economic sanctions on Russia."

Moscow says it will never return Crimea, which it annexed in 2014 in a move that has not been recognised internationally.

The West says Russia has also been providing a lifeline to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict with Kiev troops has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska)

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