Imposing sanctions against Russia and Belarus
War in Ukraine: Sanctions against Russia and Belarus
State of play regarding sanctions against Russia and Belarus
In 2014, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine by Russia led to the adoption of initial European Union sanctions against Russia. Concerning Belarus, the sanctions regime was stepped up in 2020 following the rigged presidential election, and again in 2021 in response to persistent repression, the forced landing of a Ryanair flight and the regime’s orchestration of a migration crisis with the EU.
Since 24 February 2022 and Russia started an unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, the European Union has imposed ten packages of sanctions on Russia, in coordination with its international partners. Specific sanctions have also been imposed on Belarus because of its growing involvement in the war.
This engagement is long term. The latest package of sanctions was adopted in February 2023, nearly one year to the day from the start of Russia’s aggression. This tenth package sanctions more than one hundred people and entitities contributing to Russia’s war effort: military leaders, administrators, propagandists and authors of disinformation, including people working in connection with the Wagner Group, economic players and banks. It also sanctions individuals involved in the most serious Russian crimes committed in Ukraine, including the deportation of Ukrainian children, and manufacturers of drones targeting civilians and infrastructures in Ukraine, including Iranian leaders. Lastly, this package includes new export restrictions (dual-use and advanced technology items, vehicles, construction machines and goods), new import restrictions on certain items generating significant revenue for Russia (synthetic rubber), as well as various bans aiming to protect European critical infrastructure and the European information space.
These sanctions are already having and will continue to have a significant impact on the Russian economy, undermining the country’s continued war effort.
The European Union’s sanctions against Russia, which aim to increase the cost of the war for the Russian regime, have several pillars:
1. Individual sanctions, aimed at pressuring political and economic backers of the Russian regime and leaders of the regions that are not controlled by the Ukrainian government – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, illegally annexed by Russia. These sanctions include asset freezes and EU travel restrictions and target more than 1,500 Russian individuals and entities, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
2. Massive financial sanctions to dry up the capacity to finance the Russian economy, including:
- A ban on transactions concerning the assets and reserves of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and Russian sovereign funds;
- Restrictions on purchases of Russian sovereign debt and financial flows from Russia;
- Exclusion of certain Russian banking institutions from the SWIFT secure messaging network, including Sberbank and VTB, the country’s largest and second-largest banks.
3. Economic sanctions aimed at key sectors of the Russian economy, including energy, transport, aviation, the defence industry, commodities and services.
These measures include bans on the export or import of certain items to or from Russia (including light weapons, aircraft and related equipment, dual-use and advanced technology items, materials, etc.), an embargo on gold, bans of Russian-flagged ships from ports, additional restrictions on the services sector, ban on the export of drones, chemical and biological equipment and electronic components, in the aviation sector, ban on investment in the Russian mining sector.
The energy sector, which is strategic for financing Russia’s war, is targeted: Member States have also decided to ban Russian coal imports (since August 2022), as well as oil imports by sea from Russia (since 5 December 2022 for crude oil and 5 February 2023 for refined petroleum products), which concerns almost all oil exported to EU countries. The measures adopted by the European Union also include a price cap on oil that Russia sells third countries. This cap, which complements the European embargo, was adopted in collaboration with the partners of the Price Cap Coalition (G7, European Commission, Australia). It aims to reduce income that Russia earns from oil exports while avoiding a shock to global prices.
4. Measures addressing disinformation and misinformation campaigns, including suspension of broadcasting by Sputnik, Russia Today, Rossiya 24, NTV, Rossiya 1, REN TV and Pervyi Kanal in the EU Member States until the aggression against Ukraine ends.
Moreover, specific restrictions have been put in place on trade and investment with entities in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions that are not controlled by the Ukrainian government and that were illegally annexed by Russia on 30 September 2022. Humanitarian exceptions have been adopted by the EU in order to avoid obstructing aid to the Ukrainian people.
A new targeted food exemption was adopted in December 2022 in order to allow trade, on a case-by-case basis, in agricultural goods, including fertilizers, from Russia to third States and to fight global food insecurity.
Lastly, specific measures were implemented to deter sanction circumvention. Therefore, the entities and individuals in third countries that facilitate the infringement of European sanctions may also be targeted by them. A new listing criterion was introduced in the 8th package which will allow the EU to sanction individuals and entities that facilitate the infringements of the prohibition against circumvention of sanctions.
The EU’s sanctions regime against Belarus in response to its involvement in the war in Ukraine includes similar measures to those against Russia, but takes into account the specificities of developments in the country since the rigged presidential election in 2020.
1. Individual sanctions targeting political and economic backers of the Belarusian regime and figures responsible for oppression of the opposition. These measures target more than 200 Belarusian individuals and entities.
2. Financial sanctions including, in addition to restrictions on the financing of certain Belarusian banks that were already in place, a ban on transactions concerning the assets and reserves of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus and the exclusion of several Belarusian banks from the SWIFT secure messaging network.
3. Economic sanctions, particularly import bans in key sectors of the Belarusian economy, including hydrocarbons, potash, transport and commodities.
Since the beginning of the crisis, sanctions have been adopted in close coordination with our international partners and allies, including the United Kingdom, the United States and the other G7 countries, which are implementing their own sanctions regimes.
Updated: March 2023