The invasion of Ukraine by Russia on 24 February 2022 resulted in the EU rapidly implementing a significant set of sanctions against Russia. In this Just the Facts, the four rounds of EU sanctions imposed against Russia on 23, 25, 28 February and 2 March are examined.
The first set of sanctions
Since the beginning of Russian incursions in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, over 200 people and entities have been targeted by EU sanctions However, in response to Russia’s recognition of the non-government controlled areas in eastern Ukraine on Monday, 21 February, the EU adopted a package of sanctions on Wednesday, 23 February.
These sanctions targeted people and entities “who have played a role in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.” The measures include the freezing of assets and an EU travel ban.
Those targeted include 351 members of the State Duma of Russia, the 450-seat lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia. A further 27 high-profile individuals and entities have also been targeted, including members of the Russian government, businesspeople, military officials and those involved in disinformation. Notable examples include Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence since 2012 and Nikolay Yevmenov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy since 2019.
An EU import ban of goods from the two self-proclaimed break-away areas in eastern Ukraine has been introduced, in addition to an EU export ban of goods and technologies.
Additionally, the Russian government and Central Bank of Russia is restricted in accessing the EU’s capital and financial markets and services.
The second set of sanctions
In the early morning of Thursday, 24 February, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. Later that day, the EU responded with a second package of sanctions against over 140 additional individuals and entities in Russia.
These included the freezing of assets of individuals such as President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who first entered office in 1999, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2004, other members of the State Duma and members of the National Security Council of Russia.
The EU agreed to cut Russian access to EU capital markets, impacting some 70% of the Russian banking market. The sanctions aim to significantly limit the financial inflows from Russia to the EU, with deposits from Russian clients limited to €100,000.
An EU export ban on goods and technologies to Russia was also included. This relates to defence, security, oil refining, aviation, and space in addition to the provision of insurance, financial services and assistance to these sectors.
The EU has also stripped Russian diplomats, officials and businesspeople of a visa facilitation process that allowed them privileged access to the EU. This decision will not impact ordinary Russian citizens.
The third set of sanctions
A third set of sanctions was agreed by the EU in the afternoon of Monday, 28 February.
A further 27 individuals and entities were targeted with asset freezes and an EU travel ban imposed. This included members of the Russian military, members of the government, politicians, political officials, businesspeople, individuals in Russian media and those who spread disinformation.
The EU agreed to freeze all financial assets of the Central Bank of Russia and ban EU transactions with it, severely limiting the Central Bank’s ability to access its international reserves of about €570 billion.
The EU also banned from its airspace any aircraft operated by Russian air carriers, Russian-registered aircraft, and non-Russian-registered aircraft that are owned or chartered, or otherwise controlled by a Russian individual or entity.
The fourth set of sanctions
On Wednesday, 2 March the EU agreed to a fourth round of sanction against Russia.
The EU agreed to exclude seven Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Established in 1973, SWIFT is the dominant messaging system that underpins global financial transactions for over 11,000 financial institutions.
Russia’s second-largest bank VTB, Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank and VEB will each have until Saturday, 12 March to wind-down their SWIFT operations. This will impact these banks from carrying out financial transactions worldwide.
The EU banned participation in the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the selling, supplying, transferring or exporting of euro denominated banknotes to Russian entities such as the government or the Central Bank of Russia.
In light of Belarus participating in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU imposed sanctions freezing assets and an EU travel ban for 22 high-ranking military and political officials in Belarus. Further trade sanctions were also imposed covering areas such as tobacco, chemicals, wood, cement, iron, steel, to a ban on security and defence technologies.
The EU suspended the distribution of specific Russian state-owned news organisations in the EU, specifically Russia Today and Sputnik. The EU said that “In order to justify and support its aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation has engaged in continuous and concerted propaganda actions […] gravely distorting and manipulating facts.” The sanctions relate to distribution through cable, satellite, Internet Protocol Television, platforms, websites and apps.
As of Monday, 7 March, some 700 individuals and over 50 entities and organisations relating to both Russia and Belarus have been targeted by EU sanctions. A timeline of EU measures against Russia by the EU can be found here.
The statement by European Movement International on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of which European Movement Ireland is a member, can be read here.