Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Names thrown in hat for next EU sanctions on Russia

  • Ukrainian forces firing at Russian positions in Bakhmut, south-east Ukraine, on 15 March 2023 (Photo: Evhenii Maloletka)
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EU countries are facing pressure to strike a "hammer blow" against Russia with new sanctions after their last "mosquito bite".

Ideas for what to blacklist in the 11th round of anti-war measures are already being whispered by diplomats to the European Commission in Brussels in meetings called "confessionals" in EU jargon.

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  • Ukraine's former EU ambassador Kostiantyn Yelisieiev (c) at the EU Council in Brussels in 2017 (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The new list is expected "in the near future and is likely to feature many names, as with previous packages," an EU official said.

The last round, in February, added 121 individuals and entities to what is now a rogue's gallery of more than 1,600 Russian names.

It also added another €11bn of embargoes to a pile of €130bn worth of previous trade bans.

But for those at the centre of the war there's still plenty left to do.

"The 11th package of sanctions should be a hammer blow, not a mosquito bite like the 10th," Ukraine's former EU ambassador, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, told EUobserver from Kyiv on Friday (14 April).

"Every euro they [Russia] earn is spent on producing weapons," he said.

Given the feverish wartime politics inside Russia, the EU should focus on sectoral, rather than personal sanctions, Yelisieiev said.

To "hit Russia where it hurts", Europe should block Russian pipeline and liquid gas exports and ban its nuclear giant Rosatom, he said.

"There's a need to reduce the liquidity of Russian gold and currency reserves by limiting trade in Russian diamonds, gold, and other precious metals," he added.

Russian banks should also be locked out of the normal business world, Ukrainian MP Alex Goncharenko said.

"The EU should disconnect all Russian and Belarusian banks from Swift [a global bank-transfer grid], first of all Gazprombank [which handles Russian gas sales]," Goncharenko said.

On the personal front, the MP redoubled his previous appeal for the EU to list Russia's richest man — steel baron Vladimir Lisin — on grounds his NLMK firm supplies metal for Russian tanks. Lisin denies the accusation.

The EU should also blacklist Russian orthodox church head Patriarch Kirill, who sanctified the war, for "symbolic" value, Goncharenko added.

The Rosatom ban idea is being pressed by Lithuania ahead of an EU foreign ministers' meeting on 24 April, which will be devoted to Ukraine, including on Western arms deliveries.

Estonia is pushing for action against people involved in Russia sanctions-busting, after the UK listed two Cypriots and the US hit four Turkish firms for the same reason.

But no one is talking of a major escalation in EU economic warfare of the type being called for from Kyiv.

Diplomats expect the haggling over names to begin this week when the EU Commission circulates it first draft list following the "confessional" talks.

Russia-friendly Hungary has vetoed Rosatom and Kirill sanctions in the past. Belgium has protected Lisin and Russian diamond firms who do business there.

Austrian, French, and Italian banks also do billions of euros a year of business in Russia, in a sign of the half-hearted mood in leading EU capitals.

Meanwhile, the EU, last week, added Russian mercenary group Wagner to its Ukraine blacklist, on grounds it "spearheaded" Russian "aggression" in the war.

This "signals the EU's strong determination to stand up for its interests and values, and to take tangible action against those threatening international peace and security and breaching international law," an EU foreign service spokesperson told EUobserver.

Vladimir Kara-Murza

But if that's true, Europe shouldn't forget the criminality of the Russian regime against its own people, campaigners said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has crushed dissent at home, putting some 540 political prisoners in his jails.

His latest high-profile victim is Vladimir Kara-Murza, a disabled dissident, who faces 25 years in prison in conditions that risk amounting to a death sentence, according to a cross-party group of 70 MEPs.

Kara-Murza's "rapidly deteriorating health", as well as the health of other jailed activists Alexei Gornikov and Alexei Navalny, needed "high-level engagement and international advocacy to prevent loss of life," they warned in a letter to EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on 6 April.

The EU should start by blacklisting the 28 Russian officials linked to the Kara-Murza case on human-rights grounds on top of the 11th round of Ukraine-linked sanctions, they urged.

The EU needed to "dispel the rumours that Europe has reached the bottom of her sanctions potential," Yelisieiev, the former Ukrainian ambassador, who is now a soldier, said.

Opinion

The Patriarch who's in lockstep with Putin

The doublespeak by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriach Kirill, on "the events taking place" is not just reprehensible – it could amount to an international crime, writes Stephen Minas.

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For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

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