Brussels: The European Union on Friday formally extended for six months its economic sanctions against specific sectors of the Russian economy, because of lack of full implementation of the Minsk agreements. The penalties will be valid until January 31, 2017, the EU Council said in a statement. These measures were introduced on July 31, 2014, initially for a period of one year, in response to the actions taken by Russia in Ukraine, and were strengthened in September of that year, Efe news reported. On March 19, 2015, the European Council agreed to link the duration of sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, scheduled for December 31, 2015. Since the Minsk agreements were not fully implemented by December 31, 2015, the Council extended the sanctions until July 31, 2016. Having assessed the implementation of the agreements, the Council decided to extend the duration of sanctions for six more months, until January 31, 2017.