BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union on Friday extended its economic sanctions on Russia until the end of January next year in a widely expected decision after EU leaders called for more progress in bringing peace to eastern Ukraine.

"Having assessed the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Council decided to renew the sanctions for a further six months, until 31 January 2017," the Council of European governments said, referring to the Minsk peace deal.

The EU and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia's defense, energy and financial sectors in July 2014 over Moscow's support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow imposed a ban on EU farm exports in retaliation, and denies any direct backing for the rebels.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Julia Fioretti)