Poland, the Baltics and Ireland to push for harsher Russia sanctions – EURACTIV.com

Poland, the Baltics and Ireland are set to push for more far-reaching measures against Russia as the bloc starts consultations on the next EU sanctions package this weekend, according to a document seen by EURACTIV.

In response to Russia’s recent escalation in Ukraine, EU foreign ministers meeting for an emergency late-night meeting in New York earlier this week agreed to start preparations for the next EU sanctions round against Moscow.

Those countries most resolved to ramp up pressure on Moscow circulated a position paper in a push for more hard-hitting measures.

With consultations between EU 27 set for the upcoming weekend, it is expected to contain legislation to implement the cap on the price of Russian crude, more listings of individuals and measures targeting dual-use technology, EU officials say.

EU ambassadors could then discuss a draft set of new sanctions as early as next week and latest to be approved during a regular EU foreign affairs ministers meeting in mid-October.

Nuclear, diamonds, IT software, ports

Measures proposed by the Russia hawks would amongst others include targeting nuclear, luxury goods and Russia’s IT and tech sectors as well as excluding more banks from the SWIFT messaging system, according to the position paper seen by EURACTIV.

The five countries want Gazprombank, which acts as an intermediary between EU clients and state-owned Gazprom, to be finally expelled from SWIFT, a high-security system that allows financial transactions.

On energy, the hawkish five aim to press for a ban on cooperation with Russia on nuclear energy.

Although the European Parliament had called for this already in April, the influence of Russia-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom is something that was previously brushed over by EU countries.

Regarding a ban on luxury products, Russian-made diamonds have so far remained a shining absence from the embargo list, with Belgium lobbying hard to keep them off the list.

The US Treasury Department estimates that diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports, with total revenue reaching over $4.5 billion in 2021.

Meanwhile, further technology measures could include targetting Russia’s IT, cybersecurity and software industries and curbing the availability of IT and other services to Russia.

Hawkish EU member states also said they want to see a ban on using Kaspersky Lab technology in the EU.

Earlier this year, the US government had warned some American companies the day after Russia invaded Ukraine that Moscow could manipulate software designed by Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky to cause harm.

Kaspersky, one of the cybersecurity industry’s most popular antivirus software makers, is headquartered in Moscow and was founded by Eugene Kaspersky, who is described by US officials as a former Russian intelligence officer.

The document also proposes a prohibition for EU companies to provide any sort of insurance service for the Russian government, agencies and corporations.

Moreover, the five member states are set to lobby for broadening the scope of the prohibition to enter EU ports for “any vessel owned, rented, chartered or operated, by any Russian natural or legal person, entity or body or registered under the flag of Russia.”

Belarus

Beyond targetting Russia itself, accusations have been mounting that Moscow has been using Belarus to bypass Western sanctions.

Over the past month, the Belarusian opposition has called on the EU to align the sanctions on Moscow with those on Minsk.

The EU first targeted Minsk with sanctions over its ferocious campaign of repression in 2020, while Belarus and Russia were hit by sanctions after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on 24 February from Russian and Belarusian territory.

Hawkish member states are set to push for EU sanctions against Russia to be fully mirrored in the regime of sanctions against Belarus.

In addition, this could also include broadening the ban on tobacco goods, furniture goods and alcohol.

Unanimity question

Hungary, however, is likely to again be a stumbling block in the negotiations, EU diplomats believe.

The latest round of sanctions talks in May, when the last big sanctions package had been agreed upon, went down in weeks of wrangling with a small coalition of countries led by Hungary that refused to agree on an embargo on Russian oil.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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