Imposing sanctions against Russia and Belarus


War in Ukraine: Sanctions against Russia and Belarus

In the face of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the European Union and its international partners have adopted several sanctions packages against Russia and Belarus. These measures, stepping up the sanctions adopted against Russia in 2014 when it illegally annexed Crimea, are already having a significant impact on the Russian economy and will continue to do so, hampering Russia’s ongoing war effort. This is a long-term engagement: on 24 February 2024, the European Union adopted its 13th sanctions package.

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 country’s orchestration of a migration crisis with the EU.

Since 24 February 2022, when Russia started an unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, the European Union has imposed 13 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 is a long-term engagement: on 24 February 2024, the European Union adopted another sanctions package.

Together, these packages include export restrictions (dual-use and advanced technology items, vehicles, machines and construction materials), import restrictions on certain items generating significant revenue for Russia (including synthetic rubber), and various bans aiming to protect Europe’s critical infrastructure and 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, are built on several pillars:

1. Individual sanctions, to pressure political and economic backers of the Russian regime, the Russian military-industrial complex and leaders of the regions that are not controlled by the Ukrainian government – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, illegally annexed by Russia, and those responsible for the illegal deportation and “military re-education” of Ukrainian children. These sanctions include asset freezes and an EU entry ban and target more than 2,100 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, a ban on the export of drones, chemical and biological equipment and electronic components, in the aviation sector, a ban on investment in the Russian mining sector. The 12th sanctions package imposed a prohibition on the direct or indirect import, purchase or transfer of diamonds from Russia. That prohibition applies to diamonds originating in Russia, diamonds exported from Russia, diamonds transiting Russia, and, from March 2024, to Russian diamonds when processed in third countries.

The energy sector, which is strategic for financing Russia’s war, is targeted: The Member States have 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 its oil exports to EU countries. The measures adopted by the European Union also include a price cap on Russia’s oil sales to 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 Russia’s income from oil exports while avoiding a shock to global prices. A new import ban on liquefied propane gas was also imposed in the 12th sanctions package.

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. The EU has created an “anti-circumvention tool” to enable the Council to restrict, as a last resort, exports of specified sanctioned goods and technology to certain third countries where systematic circumvention is contributing to Russia’s war effort. Entities and individuals in third countries facilitating the violation of European sanctions may also be targeted by them. Since the adoption of the 12th package, the EU’s exporters have also been required to contractually prohibit re-exportation to Russia and re-exportation for use in Russia of particularly sensitive goods or technology when selling, supplying, transferring or exporting to a third country, with the exception of “partner” countries. The 13th sanctions package adopted by the EU includes new measures against entities registered in third countries and involved in sanctions circumvention, most of which are controlled by Russian interests. The EU has stepped up measures to fight circumvention of the Russian crude oil price cap mechanism.


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 2024