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No vodka, no diamonds, no luxury goods: US and EU impose sanctions on Russian imports and exports

“Putin must pay the price,” US President Joe Biden said today.

THE US AND EU have announced new sanctions targeting luxury items in Russia as hostile forces move further into western and central Ukraine.

More than two weeks after Russia invaded its neighbour on 24 February, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped and under bombardment, while the UN estimates some 2.5 million have fled.

President Joe Biden announced today the US and its allies would end normal trade relations with Russia and confirmed a ban on imports of Russian vodka, diamonds and seafood.

The US will also ban the export of its own luxury goods to Russia and Belarus.

“Putin must pay the price. He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundation of international peace and stability and then ask for help from the international community,” Biden said.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also confirmed a ban of the export of luxury goods to Russia, striking a “direct blow to the Russian elite”,

“We will ban the export of any EU luxury goods from our countries to Russia, as a direct blow to the Russian elite,” she said.

“Those who sustain Putin’s war machine should no longer be able to enjoy their lavish lifestyle while bombs fall on innocent people in Ukraine.”

On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to pour into Ukraine, triggering unprecedented sanctions against Russia and sparking an exodus of foreign corporations, including luxury brands.

Washington and Brussels’ coordinated response to Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine has made Russia the most sanctioned country in the world, sending the ruble into free-fall, accelerating already spiralling inflation and sparking fears of debt default.

Putin has however said Russia will emerge stronger from the crisis.

“I am sure that we will get through these difficulties and become more competent and have more opportunities to feel independent and self-reliant,” Putin told Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting on Friday.

The situation is particularly dire in the southern port city of Mariupol where local officials said Friday more than 1,500 people have been killed during 12 days of Russian siege.

Western powers have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Moscow and sent funds and military aid to Kyiv, but have failed to halt the advance, including against civilian targets. 

US and European stock markets had risen earlier, buoyed by Putin’s comments about “certain positive shifts” in negotiations with Ukraine.

The first high-level talks between the two sides on Thursday failed to make a breakthrough, but Putin said negotiations are “now being held on an almost daily basis”.

But there was no let up in the bombardment, with three missiles hitting civilian buildings in the central city of Dnipro early Friday, destroying a shoe factory and killing a security guard.

The industrial hub of one million inhabitants had been considered a relatively safe haven, a centre for coordination of humanitarian aid and those fleeing more severe fighting in the country’s east.

But images of its charred or destroyed buildings — including a kindergarten with windows blown out — now join those from Kharkiv and Mariupol as testimony to the brutal conflict.

“Today, we were supposed to host people who need a lot of support,” said Svetlana Kalenecheko, who lives and works in a clinic that was damaged.

“Now we can’t help anyone.”

Elsewhere, a care home for disabled people was hit in the village of Oskil, near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, local officials said, although no casualties were reported.

Russia also announced the military airfields of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine closer to the Polish border, had been “put out of action”.

Local officials said four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the attack.

Ukraine claimed the widening of Russia’s targets followed its failure to secure cities already under siege, and insisted Moscow had made no “significant progress” in the last 24 hours. 

© AFP 2022

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