Since the 24th February 2022 the Russian aggression against Ukraine has destabilized the world geopolitical order. With the Russia’s annexation of a number of Ukrainian regions it started a war close to Europe’s doorstep that after more than a year has still not ended and has caused the deaths of thousands of people, millions of refugees, and extensive economic and structural damage.
In 2014, Russian power annexed Crimea, violating the Minsk agreements. As a response to that action, the European Union imposed measures on Russia by virtue of the aggression put in place.
From 2022, to these measures already in place, the European Union then decided to impose new sanctions on Russia, precisely because of the crisis unleashed with Ukraine due to the actions carried out by Russia itself.
These sanctions include restrictive measures, economic sanctions and measures related to visa. This action is intended to cause a negative consequence for Russia by discouraging it and preventing it from continuing its aggression.
A total of 1,473 individuals and 207 entities have been sanctioned since 2014. Among them are President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Yevgeny Prigozhin and commanders of the Wagner Group, prominent businessmen and oligarchs, pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukrainian propagandists, and generally anyone who has been involved in or is responsible for criminal actions in the conflict. Notably, sanctions were also targeted at banks, political parties, media outlets responsible for propaganda and disinformation, and the Wagner Group (a private military entity based in Russia) and RIA FAN, which is a Russian media organization.
Sanctioned individuals have a travel ban and their assets are frozen. The asset freeze also affects entities. With travel bans, affected persons cannot enter or transit within the EU. The asset freeze, on the other hand, implies that all accounts of individuals or entities are frozen and also implies a ban on making funds or assets available to them. To date, the value of frozen assets in the EU is 21.5 billion euros, while 300 billion has been frozen for the assets of the Central Bank of Russia frozen in EU and G7 countries, so it is estimated that more than half of Russia’s reserves are frozen.
The asset freeze is intended to ensure that money from individuals or entities in favor of the Russian regime cannot be used to support it and so that it cannot circulate within the EU.
On the trade side, the EU has also put in place a number of restrictions on import and export. This means that European entities cannot sell certain products to Russia and that Russian entities are not allowed to sell certain products to the EU. Excluded from the list of products toward which the restrictions are directed are those intended primarily for consumption and products from the health, pharmaceutical, food, and agricultural sectors, in order not to harm the Russian population.
Since February 2022, the EU has banned exports of goods to Russia worth more than 43.9 billion of euros and imports of goods worth 91.2 billion euros. This means that 49 percent of exports and 58 percent of imports are currently under sanctions, compared to the ones that were put in action in 2021.
In addition to this, it was prohibited to provide, directly or otherwise, accounting, auditing and tax consulting services, as well as administrative-management or public relations consulting services, IT consulting services, legal consulting, architecture and engineering. Last December 2022, the provision of advertising, market research and opinion polling services were also prohibited.
Another relevant ban is the one related to oil: the purchase, import or transfer of crude oil and certain petroleum products transported from Russia to the EU was banned.
Maritime, road and airspace transport have also been banned to a large extent. All these measures have been planned, updated and modified through a series of packages over the years.
The latest package, which is the tenth, had been symbolically approved last 24th February 2023, on the first anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This package was approved in order to confirm the support for the Ukrainian cause, as well as the strong condemnation of the violent action carried out by the Russian Federation
Specifically, the purpose of the package was to intensify the pressure and increase the economic isolation of the country. The measures adopted consist of two Decisions (CFSP Decision 2023/432 and 2023/434) and three Regulations (EU Regulation 2023/426, 2023/427, 2023/429).
The main measures concern: Additional Export Restrictions, Anti-avoidance Measures, Additional Import Prohibitions, Critical Infrastructure, Gas Storage, Air Transport, Exemptions for Provision of Services and Technical Assistance, Release of Imported Goods, Financial Sector, Information and Broadcasting, and New Subjective Designations.
Specifically, in terms of exports, the EU imposed restrictions on exports of goods and technologies that can contribute to the technological enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector are strengthened. In addition, in order to prevent access to key products and technologies that can be used for war purposes, the list of military end-users and entities already on the list is further expanded.
On the subject of imports, additional restrictions are introduced regarding bitumen and materials such as asphalt, synthetic rubber and carbon.
The lists of affected entities or persons have been expanded. Three more Russian banks, namely Tinkoff Bank, Alfa Bank, and Rosbank, have been added to the list of entities subject to asset freezes and a ban on making funds and economic resources available. Two other Russian media outlets, RT Arabic and Sputnik Arabic, are also affected by the restrictions. For their disinformation activities, the EU has also extended sanctions to Wagner Group members taking into account the international dimension and the seriousness of the actions perpetrated in other countries as well (such as Mali, Sudan, Libya).
In May 2023 there was another willing to further amend and update these sanctions, thus arriving at the 11th package, which has already been presented by the European Commission and is currently being discussed in the EU Council, which will have to approve it unanimously. This new package is mainly concerned with strengthening the anti-circumvention measures of the restrictive actions already in place against Russia, particularly with regard to the ban on the export of certain goods.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Layen, provided some details on the new restrictive measures, which aim to form a new package based on three different pillars, as the following ones:
-Sharpening our existing tools, adding more products to our transit ban;
-Proposing a new tool to combat sanctions circumvention;
-Proposing to ban “shadow” entities from Russia and third countries that are intentionally circumventing our sanctions.
“We continue to do everything in our power to erode Putin’s war machine and his revenues.,” as Ursula von der Leyen said in a Twitter post.
This new package should be discussed and approved in the next future. The approval of these measures will be in line with the current situation and is intended to be a significant tool in supporting the Ukrainian cause and firm condemnation of the Russian Federation.
The European Union is trying to be present alongside the Ukrainian people, also ensuring financial, military and humanitarian support. But European action must be joint and united, without considering any surrender on the part of Ukraine. Only in this way a truly just peace can be achieved, a peace that will allow a reconstruction of the wounded country.