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EU agrees new Russia sanctions package on war anniversary

February 25, 2023

The EU adopted the tenth round of sanctions against Russia on Friday night. A disagreement between Polish and Italian officials held up the deal.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 2, Kyiv
EU diplomats continued talks through the first anniversary of the Ukraine war to reach an agreementImage: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union agreed to a new round of sanctions against Russia on Friday, on the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The package is the tenth to be adopted by the EU member states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during her visit to Kyiv earlier this month that the EU would "aim to have the tenth package of sanctions in place" by the one-year mark of Russia's invasion.

Scholz: 'Russia stands alone with its aggression'

New sanctions target entities supporting war, spreading Russian propaganda

Sweden, which took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU at the beginning of the year, said the new measures "targeted restricted measures against individuals and entities supporting the war, spreading propaganda or delivering drones used by Russia in the war."

"Together, the EU member states have imposed the most forceful and far-reaching sanctions ever to help Ukraine win the war," the Swedish presidency said on Twitter.

"The EU stands united with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We will keep supporting Ukraine, for as long as it takes," it added.

Why were sanctions announced so late in the evening?

EU diplomats had agreed on nearly all points of the new proposed package, but Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki criticized it as being "too soft, too weak" while on a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday.

In Kyiv, Morawiecki said, "We propose that additional people be included." 

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda echoed his concerns. "I always expected stronger sanctions," he said. He told reporters he expected the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom to be targeted.

Poland was seeking a ban on the importation of the synthetic rubber that is used to make tires from Russia, AFP reported citing diplomatic sources. Italy was keen on a lengthy transition period to give its manufacturers more time to find new suppliers.

The resulting disagreement has delayed a deal on what Brussels insiders describe as a still very substantial sanctions package, according to AFP.

US announces new sanctions

The US also announced Friday it was sanctioning hundreds of Russian firms, banks, manufacturers and individuals, specifically targeting entities that helped Russia evade sanctions on the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The metals and mining sector in Russia along with arms dealers, technology enterprises and weapons manufacturers are specifically targeted with those helping being located in countries ranging from the United Arab Emirates to Switzerland.. 

People gather around the world for Ukraine war anniversary

Who was sanctioned in the latest wave?

A dozen financial institutions, including Russia's largest non-state public bank, importers of microelectronics and producers of carbon fiber, a key component in defense systems, were all hit with sanctions.

Thirty individuals are facing penalties for alleged ties to Russia's sanctions evasion efforts. Among them are Swiss-Italian businessman Walter Moretti and his businesses, Nurmurad Kurbanov, a Russian-Turkmen arms dealer who is alleged to have represented Russian and Belarusian defense firms abroad, and Russian businessman Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Udodov who is the former brother-in-law of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The US State Department followed on with sanctions against more than 60 senior Russian government officials, including Cabinet ministers and regional leaders, as well as three state enterprises responsible for running Russia's nuclear weapons program.

Visa restrictions were also imposed on more than 1,200 members of the Russian military. Olga Skabeyeva, a leading state television propagandist, and Oleg Romanenko, who was put in charge of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after Russia seized it were also placed on the sanctions list.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Russian Presidential Administrative Directorate Spokesperson Yelena Krylova and TV presenter Olga Skabeyeva
Russian state TV presenter Olga Skabeyeva faced visa restrictions from the US as Baltic leaders including Poland criticize the EU's latest announced sanctions under discussion as being too lenientImage: Donat Sorokin/Tass/IMAGO

What did the US Treasury Secretary say?

In a statement, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, "Our sanctions have had both short-term and long-term impact, seen acutely in Russia's struggle to replenish its weapons and in its isolated economy."

"Our actions today with our G7 partners show that we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes," Yellen added.

She noted the action was being taken alongside G7 partners with the intention of standing with Ukraine "for as long as it takes."

Her comments come as she attends a two-day G20 finance ministers meeting in Bengaluru, India.

She told Russian officials at meetings Friday that "their continued work for the Kremlin makes them complicit in Putin's atrocities."

Yellen added, "They bear responsibility for the lives and livelihoods being taken in Ukraine and the harm caused globally."

What other financial penalties for invading Ukraine has the US announced?

The US Department of Commerce and the Office of the US Trade Representative are also expected to turn up the pressure on Russia Friday to mark the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also suspended Russia's membership Friday.

Bruno Le Marie, the French Finance Minister, said at a G20 press conference said that "our sanctions are strong, they are efficient, they are hitting and reducing all revenues of Russia."

"They are disorganizing Russian industry, undermining war efforts," he added.

rm, ar/sms, jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)