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The flags of the European Union, Ukraine and EU member states fly in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. DPA/PA Images

EU imposes fresh sanctions on Russia over annexation of four Ukrainian regions

It is the eighth package of sanctions the EU has adopted against Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February.

THE EU HAS imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, expanding import/export bans and blacklisting individuals over Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

The measures, which came into force with their publication in the bloc’s official administrative journal, also pointed the way to an oil price cap on Russian crude transported around the world but only after details are worked out within the G7 group of nations.

The EU regulation said the sanctions were in response to Russia’s “further aggression against Ukraine, the organisation of illegal sham ‘referenda’ in the parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions that are currently illegally occupied…. the illegal annexation of those Ukrainian regions… as well as the mobilisation in the Russian Federation and its repeated threat to use weapons of mass destruction”.

Thirty individuals and seven entities were added to the EU blacklist, including singers Yulia Chicherina and Nikolay Rastorguev, among others deemed pro-war “propaganda” artists.

Other listings were Russia’s electoral commission and its head, proxy Russian officials in the annexed regions, and Russian defence officials and defence-affiliated companies.

The regulation also introduced a “circumvention” list on which individuals or companies helping banned Russian entities get around the EU sanctions would be placed.

In a post on Twitter, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the new sanctions package is “proof of our determination to stop Putin’s war machine and respond to his latest escalation with fake “referenda” and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories”. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also welcomed the member states’ agreement on the package.

“We have moved quickly and decisively. We will never accept Putin’s sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine. We are determined to continue making the Kremlin pay,” she said in a tweet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney Ireland “remains steadfast in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders”.

“Russia’s further violation of this has led us to introduce another package of sanctions. This will add to the pressure that EU restrictive measures have already put on the Russian economy, and its military capacity,” Coveney said.

He said Ireland has consistently advocated for a maximalist position on sanctions since February.

“Russian actions have been met with a strong and unified response by the EU and its partners. I will continue to call for further pressure to be imposed on Russia through sanctions until a peaceful conclusion of this conflict is reached. We stand united with Ukraine,” he added.

It is the eighth package of sanctions the European Union has imposed on Russia since the Kremlin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February.

The last couple of sanctions packets have been losing steam compared to earlier ones, as major Russian trade, energy, banking, military and political sectors have already been hit.

Services ban

The headline measure in the latest sanctions was meant to be an oil price cap on Russian crude transported around the world.

But the legal text published today did not set out how that would work, leaving it to future deliberations by the European Commission and EU member states in consultation with the G7.

“Although all the main elements of the price cap are in the text right now, discussions on what level the price cap will be, and some details are still ongoing in the G7 context,” an EU official said on condition of anonymity to better explain the sanctions.

“Obviously what is important is that we have a level playing field across all the G7 and if possible also that third countries are on board.”

The sanctions do include expanding a ban to all Russian cryptocurrency transactions, regardless of amount, and the widening of an existing ban on Russian imports, and broadening a prohibition on weapon sales to include personal arms.

Also, electronic components that can go into Russian weapons, such as transistors, electronic integrated circuits, controllers, and aerial surveillance cameras are banned for sale to Russia.

Additionally, the EU is barring service providers in several sectors from exporting to Russia, including in the fields of legal advice, architecture, engineering and IT consultancy.

Compared to before the war, the EU has now “decoupled” around a third of its exports to Russia and more than half of its imports from the country, an EU official said.

One mooted measure that was left off the sanctions list was diamonds – a key sector for Belgium – because trade with Russia had already fallen off and it was a globalised industry easily able to sidestep European restrictions, an official explained.

© AFP 2022

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