Sunday, March 26

EU leaders toughen sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine: “It’s not a crisis, it’s a war”

EU leaders have agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. And, in addition, they have targeted Belarus for its role as a platform for the Russian attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory. Thus, the extraordinary European Council convened urgently in Brussels, has agreed on new sanctions “with harsh and severe consequences for Russia for its action.”

According to the conclusions agreed this Thursday, which do not detail the second package, “the sanctions cover the financial sector, energy and maritime transport, dual-use goods [civiles y militares]as well as export control and exhibition financing, visa policy, more Russian personalities and new criteria for the list.” Having agreed on that second package of sanctions fairly quickly, the leaders have begun discussing the third , with a view to a possible war escalation in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has intervened by videoconference in the meeting, in a gesture of “solidarity with Ukraine”, as the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has tweeted. According to diplomatic sources, the intervention, “very emotional”, called for tougher sanctions on European leaders who, for now, are betting on their graduation.

As it has been revealed, within the package it is planned to freeze transactions of more banking entities than those already included on Wednesday, and prevent state companies from listing on the EU stock exchanges or Russian citizens from making large deposits – more than 100,000 euros. according to the Financial Timeswhich notes that the new regime would also ban aircraft sales, as well as ban the sale of equipment for Russian oil refineries and suspend visa-free travel for holders of Russian diplomatic passports.

After the agreement of the leaders this Thursday, the foreign ministers of the EU will meet this Friday at 3:00 p.m. for approval in the Council of the EU and, later, the ambassadors will give the legal review for its publication in the official bulletin this same friday.

Measures, according to Financial Times, they would extend the list of Russian banks blocked from EU funding to two private banks, Alfa Bank and Bank Otkritie, in addition to five state institutions. Likewise, the lending and purchase of securities in a series of Russian state-owned companies, including companies in the aerospace and defense sector, maritime transport and shipbuilding, among others, would be prohibited.

The new package may include export controls on goods that can be used by the armed forces, as well as high-tech items, electronics, sensors, telecommunications, marine applications and lasers.

The conclusions of the European Council, in addition, request that “progress be made in the work of preparation and availability at all levels and invite the European Commission, in particular, to propose contingency measures in the field of energy”.

“We don’t need sanctions that bark, but we need sanctions that bite very deep, that have a great impact on the Russian side”, said Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, upon entering the summit: “We need it to be extremely difficult for Russia to operate in an international environment.

The EU measures are not expected to directly target Russian President Vladimir Putin or his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, along the lines of what was decided by the White House.

The EU, for the moment, also does not seem willing to agree to Ukraine’s request to expel Russia from the SWIFT financial payment communication system, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also requested.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas arrived at the summit with the Ukrainian flag and asked to “give a very strong signal. We have to do everything possible to support Ukraine. We have to give strong signals that the European doors are not are closing, NATO’s doors are not closing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for his part, has said that Putin “will not win this war, because the citizens of Europe want peace, the rule of law and democracy.” Regarding Russia’s expulsion from the SWIFT system, Scholz said it would be “important to save everything else for a situation where further action is needed.”

What situation? Josep Borrell, head of EU diplomacy, when asked if Putin could invade other European countries, replied: “With Putin, nothing is excluded.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged that there was a division among the leaders on whether to exclude Russia from SWIFT: “The discussion is divergent, and also with the Americans, on whether you should do it now or in the next step, because it also has a huge impact for us.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said upon arriving at the summit: “Civilians are being killed now, every minute, every hour,” Morawiecki said. How Europe reacts will be “critical” for the history of the European Union, he also said: “The whole free world is watching us.” And he called for strengthening NATO’s eastern flank “to prevent any further aggression from this aggressive state, the Russian Federation.”

“This is not just the war against Ukraine, it is a war against Europe, against democracy, against the rules-based international order,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said: “We cannot afford to be [un] international discussion club. We need to take action.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin noted that Putin “at the moment is not the kind of leader with whom you can negotiate.”