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24th Jul 2021

EU to extend sanctions on Russia-occupied Crimea

The EU is to extend sanctions on Russia-occupied Crimea, amid a history of patchy implementation.

EU ambassadors, meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (9 June), were expected to agree a year-long extension without much ado, three EU diplomats told EUobserver.

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Even Hungary, which has close ties to Moscow and a history of EU vetoes, was not expected to stand in the way, the diplomats said.

EU finance ministers will then sign the renewed sanctions into law at another meeting on 18 June.

These ban EU nationals or firms from owning assets or doing business in the Ukrainian peninsula and were put in place after Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014.

"They've had a strong effect on the region - it's not a good environment for doing business," an EU diplomat said.

"[Russian president Vladimir] Putin promised people in Crimea a bright future, but he hasn't been able to deliver on his promises in economic terms," the diplomat added.

The past seven years have seen several cases of EU sanctions violations come to light, despite the overall chilling effect, however.

A Greek-Russian billionaire, Ivan Savvidi, is involved in Crimea food supply and funds pro-Russian propaganda events there, EUobserver reported in May.

Danish engineering firm Grundfos and German company Siemens have supplied water pumps to Crimea, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle revealed also last month.

Germany's top lender, Deutsche Bank, was caught facilitating shady financial transactions to Crimea in 2020.

And Cyprus hosts several off-shore firms involved in Crimea's transport, wine, and hotel, industries the RFE/RFL news agency revealed in an investigation in 2019.

Some EU companies have also used sanctions loopholes on "cultural" projects to do business in the frozen-conflict zone.

Austrian architects' firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, for instance, is currently building a lavish opera house in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

When asked if it was confident sanctions were being properly enforced, the EU foreign service said: "Implementation of the sanctions is a duty of each member state".

The European Commission, which has a sanctions-compliance monitoring unit, declined to comment.

The EU has also blacklisted 177 Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians and 48 entities for harming Ukraine's territorial integrity more broadly speaking.

The blacklists come up for renewal every six months, with the next roll-over due in September.

Investigation

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From small businesses to commercial giants, many have been affected by the US and EU sanctions imposed after Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014. But some locals have found ways around them.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

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