Brussels – Two weeks before the end of the most turbulent year for relations between the European Union and Russia, due to Moscow’s armed aggression against Ukraine, the Twenty-Seven have dealt another blow to the Russian economy, imposing a new package of sanctions against the regime of Vladimir Putin. The ninth round of restrictive measures is a response to the escalation of the war on the eastern front and targets Russia’s energy, mining and technology sector, but trying not to jeopardize global food security.
“After food and hunger, Putin is now using winter as a weapon, deliberately depriving millions of Ukrainians of water, electricity and heat“, is the harsh comment of the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Joseph Borrell. The green light from the EU Council to the new sanctions came after thepolitical agreement between the heads of state and government of the 27 member countries during yesterday’s summit (Thursday 15 December): “The European Council welcomes the strengthening of EU restrictive measures against Russia, also through the ninth package of restrictive measures and the international ceiling on oil prices“, it reads in conclusionswith a reference to the measures contained in theeighth package of sanctions.
The main issue on which “we got stuck in the written procedure” – as confessed in the post-summit press conference by the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel – concerned the waiver of sanctions for Russian oligarchs active in the food and fertilizer and food sectors. As explained by EU sources on the sidelines of the Council, the exemption will only apply to this type of transaction, since the United Nations has expressed concerns that deliveries of food and fertilizer are delayed by port controls of EU Member States and international partners. In any case, Brussels strongly underlines that “none of the measures adopted concerns in any way the trade of agricultural and food products between third countries and Russia”. However, given the Union’s “firm will” to fight global food insecurity, “it was decided to introduce a new derogation that allows assets to be unfrozen and funds and economic resources to be made available to certain people” who hold a ” significant role” in the trade of products such as “grain and fertilizers“.
Once this knot was resolved and “the right balance between firmness against the Kremlin and food security” was found, as President Michel specified, the road was downhill for the imposition of the new round of sanctions. On the floor energy and mining new investments in Russia have been prohibited,”except for mining and quarrying activities involving critical raw materials“. As regards the technological front, exports of goods and technologies that can contribute to the technological enhancement of the defense and security sector are prohibited (another 168 entities of the Russian military and industrial complex have been added to the list of sanctions): stop the trade with Moscow of chemicals, nerve agents, night vision and radio navigation equipment, electronics and computer components.
But in the export chapter, another range of key technologies for the war in Ukraine assumes particular relevance: in the field of aviation and the space industry, aircraft engines “both manned and unmanned aircraft” have been included. In other words, from today the export of drone engines to Russia “and any third country that could supply them” to Moscow will be banned. A not too veiled reference to Iran, already sanctioned for supporting the Kremlin with drones and trainers in Crimea. On the European consultancy front, however, a ban on product testing and technical inspection services is introduced.
The ninth package of sanctions also provides for the freezing of assets against two other Russian banks, while the Russian Regional Development Bank has been added to the list of entities subject to a total ban on transactions through the Swift payment system. The regime propaganda is then hit with the ban on suspension of broadcasting licenses of four other media (in addition to Sputnik, Russia Today, Rossiya RTR / RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24 / Russia 24 and TV Center International): these are NTV / NTV Mir, Rossiya 1, REN TV and Pervyi Kanal. “These broadcasters are under the permanent, direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation”, specifies the EU Council, underlining that “they have been used for the continuous and concerted actions of disinformation and war propaganda”.
I welcome the agreement on the 9th sanctions package against Russia.
It focuses on tech, finance and media to push the Russian economy and war machine further off the rails.
It sanctions almost 200 individuals and entities involved in attacks on civilians & kidnapping children
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 16, 2022
From the ban on investments in the energy and mining sector to the export of engines for drones also to “any third country that can supply them” to Moscow. To unblock the restrictive measures, the derogation was granted to the oligarchs active in the food and fertilizer fields