European Union countries kept trade sanctions against Russia in place on Monday, the same day Russia said it would block imports from its former satellite state Ukraine.
Russia cited the trade agreement that is due to come into effect between the European Union and Ukraine next year as a reason for blocking Ukrainian goods.
“Under these circumstances, we need to protect our market and our producers and to prevent imports from other countries under the guise of Ukrainian goods,” Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said.
Russia originally tried to draw Ukraine into a customs union of its own. But after Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the proposed deal with Russia, the country signed an association agreement with the EU instead.
The treaty includes a free trade deal and commits Ukraine to harmonizing its economic and social policies with those of the 28 nations in the bloc.
The EU, for its part, sustained an embargo against Russia that was put in place after it occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia has also fanned a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region.
European leaders said Moscow had failed follow up on its promise to withdraw its support from the Donbas rebels.
Russia denies it supports the separatists.
Division in Europe
A six-month extension of the boycott was held up by Italy, which argued against the construction of another Baltic Sea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The country’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, told the Financial Times, “Europe has to serve all 28 countries, not just one.”
“I understand this is important business,” he added. “I’m not scandalized. But I want to say either the rules apply to everyone or no one.”
Various Central and Eastern European countries have also spoken out against the pipeline, which could double Russian natural gas transfers to Germany.
Germany argues that it cannot stop the new connection — which is clearly designed to bypass Ukraine, which still transits around half the natural gas Russia sells to Europe — because it is a private venture.
But such concerns did not stop Europe from forcing Russia to abandon another non-Ukrainian pipeline last year. Russia canceled South Stream last December citing European opposition to the $40 billion project. Italy’s Eni was a major investor in it.