By April Kent
The European Union is expected to hold discussions about whether Russia has fulfilled the Minsk agreement, impacting the automatic extension of sanctions against the country. This comes after senior European officials warned in early February that time is running out for Russia and Ukraine to fully implement last year’s cease-fire and peace agreements, saying “difficult” issues must now be tackled. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, explained, “[w]e still don’t have a sustainable cease-fire, which is naturally a prerequisite for the implementation of different points in the Minsk agreement.” However, Russia’s Permanent Ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, stated at the end of February that he expected anti-Russia EU sanctions to expire as soon as summer 2016: “I think that at some point, I hope that already in the summer, they will simply no longer be in force,” Chizhov said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television. The Minsk agreement was negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France, and lays out steps to secure the end of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine, which broke out in 2014 after people in the region refused to accept the forceful change of power in Kiev. The conflict has resulted in over 9,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people, according to the UN.