War in Ukraine: 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 February 2022 and the start of Russian aggression in Ukraine, the European Union has adopted eight packages of sanctions against Russia, in coordination with its partners, particularly the G7 member countries. This engagement is long term: therefore, the latest package of sanctions was adopted in October 2022 following another escalation, which consisted of the illegal annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia by Russia.
Specific sanctions have also been adopted against Belarus because of its involvement in the war.
They are already having a major and growing impact on the Russian economy that will undermine 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 an EU travel restrictions and target more than 1,300 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;
- 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 goods to or from Russia (including light weapons, aircraft and related equipment, dual-use items, high-technology goods, materials, etc.), bans of Russian-flagged ships from ports and additional restrictions on the services sector.
The energy sector, which is strategic for financing Russia’s war, is targeted: Member States have also decided to ban Russian coal imports, as well as oil imports by sea from Russia, 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, 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, RT and Russia 24 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 and Luhansk areas 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.
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: October 2022