The fifth round of sanctions against Russia, proposed this Tuesday by the European Comission, does not go as far as many countries in the European Union would have liked. For now, there will be no Russian oil and gas embargo but the Bucha massacre has convinced European leaders that it is necessary to start hitting the russian energy sector, the Kremlin’s main source of income, and toughen the European response. This decision results in a embargo on coal imports coming from Russia that suppose each year about 4,000 million in income to the Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“The four sanction packages have hit hard and limited the political and economic options of the Kremlin. We see tangible changes but in view of the events we need to increase the pressure more”, explained the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyenduring a brief appearance with the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrell, no questions. “We have all seen the horrific images of Bucha and other areas from which Russian troops have recently left. These atrocities cannot and will not go unanswered,” added the German conservative.
Although neither Russian oil nor gas are in the new batch of sanctions, Brussels is already working on the possible imposition of additional sanctions on oil imports and reflecting on how to punish gas as well. Germany and Austria have made it clear that for the moment they do not consider a suspension of gas imports viable, due to the impact that closing the tap to Russian gas would have on their respective economies, but the community executive has confirmed that it is exploring some alternatives that would go through the imposition of surcharges or send gas payments to blocked accounts.
The new package of sanctions, which will be examined on Wednesday by the 27 permanent ambassadors of the EU, also includes the “total ban” of sanctions on four other “key Russian banks” that represent 23% of the market share. Among them is the VTB, the second largest bank, which like the rest will be isolated from the markets which “will further weaken the Russian financial system,” the German has said. The new round also includes a ban on Russian ships and ships of Russia-based operators from accessing European ports albeit with some exemptions for agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid and energy.In addition, Brussels proposes to limit road transport, both by Russian and Belarusian operators, a measure that “will drastically limit Russian industry’s chances of obtaining key goods”.
The list of limitations also includes new export prohibitions, worth 10,000 million, in crucial areas such as the semiconductors, sensitive machinery and transportation equipment. In this way, the Commission argues, the EU “will degrade the Russian technological base and industrial capacity.” The package also adds new specific import vetoes, worth 5,500 million euros, to prevent the access of oligarchs to new European products.
The punishment also includes measures to prevent Russian companies from participating in public contracting processes in the Member States and the exclusion of all financial, community or national aid to Russian public bodies because “European funding must not go to Russia in any way”, von der Leyen recalled. Lastly, Brussels proposes expanding the list of senior officials and oligarchs affected by individual sanctions and that prevent them from accessing community territory or their assets in the EU. Although he has not mentioned names, Borrell has explained that they will add the name of “dozens” of politicians, businessmen and individuals involved in the Kremlin’s propaganda machine as well as new entities, from the four banks to military or transport companies. Borrell has also announced that he has designated a “number” of officials from the Russian Federation’s permanent missions to the EU as persona non grata.
“Today, more than 40 countries apply sanctions like these. Taking a clear stand is crucial for everyone. A clear stance against Putin’s war. Against the massacre of civilians. Against the violation of the fundamental principles of the world order”, explained von der Leyen together with Borrell. Precisely, both European leaders will follow in the footsteps of the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzolaand will travel this week to kyiv to meet in person with the Ukrainian president Vorodimir Zelensky.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.