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Russia remains in the sanctions loop

EU sanctions against Russia

The Russian Federation remains under sanctions, as no significant progress has been made on the issues that have led to these economic restrictions.

Thus, on Thursday, June 18, it became known that the European Union has extended for another year (until June 23, 2021) a package of sanctions imposed due to the annexation of Crimea. This package includes a ban on imports of products from the occupied peninsula to the European Union, investment in the Crimea, tourist services there, in particular, European cruise ships can not enter the ports of the peninsula. It is forbidden to export certain goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in the Crimea in various sectors, as well as related to the exploration and extraction of minerals. The provision of technical assistance, brokerage, construction, or engineering services is prohibited.

As early as Friday, June 19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced following an online summit of EU leaders that economic sanctions against Russia for military aggression in eastern Ukraine had been extended for another six months (until January 31, 2021). Restrictive measures of the package are directed against the financial, energy, and defense sectors of the Russian economy.

Attempts to lift the “yoke of sanctions”

It is now clear that the restrictions that the Russian government laughed at in 2014-2015 are affecting the country’s economy. If 5 years ago the political elite of the Russian Federation claimed that sanctions are “only for the benefit” of the state, now the Russian authorities are trying to use every chance to lift the restrictions.

In particular, in late March, Russian President Volodymyr Putin during a video conference with G20 leaders proposed a moratorium on economic sanctions so that countries affected by the pandemic could better fight the disease. Such a proposal has been severely criticized by both international observers and Ukrainian politicians, who believe that Russia has decided to get rid of economic restrictions by manipulation. In fact, it was about using the coronavirus pandemic to achieve the Kremlin’s geopolitical goals.

The stormy reaction and wide-ranging discussions did not allow Russia to seize the opportunity. In particular, the European Union has concluded that current sanctions do not affect Russia’s ability to withstand pandemics.

However, this does not prevent Russians from acting through their “agents of influence” in Europe, who promote the idea that it is economically unprofitable to continue sanctions, because, in fact, they do not seem to affect the Russian economy, but European countries suffer because Russia is a huge sales market.

Quite influential politicians have voiced and continue to multiply such ideas, including former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is now chairman of Rosneft’s board of directors.

As Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, said in response to Schroeder’s attack, “Mr. Schroeder will go down in world history as a cynical Kremlin lobbyist in Germany who despised Putin’s aggressive policies and shamelessly justifies Russia’s war crimes in eastern Ukraine and Crimea”. A few weeks earlier, the Ukrainian diplomat had to enter into a public discussion with Minister of Brandenburg for Europe, Catherine Lange, who demanding the lifting of sanctions against Russia.

Similar ideas have been repeatedly voiced in recent years by high-ranking officials in Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, and so on. However, so far the world community remains consistent in condemning the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation, the annexation of Crimea, and in support of Ukraine. Moscow is under economic pressure, even to the detriment of the world community.

The Kremlin is “running into” new restrictions

In the current conditions, the world community not only does not see at least some significant concessions from Russia but also records the continuation of its rather aggressive policy in many areas. And, again, to somehow stop Russia, a powerful nuclear power, Western leaders are announcing further economic restrictions.

Cyberattack on the Bundestag

In early June, it became known that EU diplomats at the request of Germany will begin work on additional economic restrictions against the organizers of the cyber attack on the Bundestag in 2015. If that happens, it will, in fact, be the first restriction under EU cyber sanctions.

Germany wants to impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of the head of Russia’s military intelligence and several employees of this department.

The murder of a Chechen in Berlin

On June 18, German Foreign Minister Gaiko Maas said the country could impose sanctions on Russia over the assassination in Berlin of former Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the decision will be made based on the results of the trial.

German law enforcement officials believe that the Kremlin is involved in the assassination attempt in August 2019.

As reported by the media, the killer is a citizen of Russia. German prosecutors have filed formal charges against him. According to German militiamen, he committed the murder at the behest of “agencies subordinate to the government of the Russian Federation”.

This version was previously voiced by Bellingcat investigators, who believe that the killer is connected with the Russian FSB. His name is Vadym Krasikov, and he entered Germany according to documents issued in the name of Vadym Sokolov.

The United States wants to make a finishing strike to “Nord Stream – 2”

In early June, senators from Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress submitted a bill that would impose new sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline. The document provides for the introduction of economic measures against companies involved not only in the process of laying the pipeline but also insurance and underwriting services related to this project.

At the same time, the German newspaper Die Welt claims that the new sanctions planned by the United States will not prevent Gazprom from completing the construction of the gas pipeline. The publication notes that only the ban on most works in the Baltic Sea in July-August due to spawning of cod during this period can temporarily stop the laying of the pipeline.

The Russian pipeline ship Akademik Chersky has already arrived in the port of Sassnitz, where it is preparing to lay the last part of the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Free Democratic Party faction in the Bundestag, Oleksandr Lambsdorf, appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop supporting the construction of Nord Stream 2 over the murder of Khangoshvili in Berlin.

To be continued…

Bohdan Marusyak

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