What the EU has refused to do to help Ukraine

David Lammy says 'not nearly enough’ done to sanction Russia

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Overnight the situation in Ukraine has gone from bad to worse, with civilian deaths reported and an influx of Russian soldiers now entering the capital city Kiev. More than 100,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes in an attempt to find safety, according to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees. But even as disaster unfolds in Europe, the EU’s internal stalemate has led to a package of sanctions that even bloc members do not believe go far enough.

What sanctions has the EU placed on Russia?

The EU will freeze Russian assets in the bloc and halt its banks’ access to European financial markets as part of what EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described as “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented”.

Export controls will also seek to stifle its trade, manufacturing, and energy industries.

Following a late-night European Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the package included sanctions aimed to deter Putin from redrawing “the map of Europe by force”.

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In a series of tweets early on Friday morning, Ms von der Leyen said the sanctions show “how united the EU is”.

She said: “First, this package includes financial sanctions, targeting 70 percent of the Russian banking market and key state owned companies, including in defence.

“Second, we target the energy sector, a key economic area which especially benefits the Russian state. Our export ban will hit the oil sector by making it impossible for Russia to upgrade its refineries.

“Third: we ban the sale of aircrafts and equipment to Russian airlines.

“Fourth, we are limiting Russia’s access to crucial technology, such as semiconductors or cutting-edge software.

“Finally: visas. Diplomats and related groups and business people will no longer have privileged access to the European Union.”

There will no curbs on gas and oil exports – one of Russia’s biggest strengths.

Some have branded the bloc’s sanctions as not going nearly far enough, despite Ms von der Leyen’s proclamation that “He [Putin] must and he will fail.”

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Unfortunately, that seems unlikely, as Russian troops are descending on Kiev as of Friday morning.

But infighting around the bloc has made the EU step back from taking the harshest measures available, just as Russian troops descend on the capital Kiev.

The bloc has declined to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international payments system, despite Ukraine pleading for the action to be taken.

Ukraine and the EU’s ex-Soviet Baltic states, such as Latvia and Estonia, have been pushing to remove Russia from the system.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it would not consider removing Russia from Swift, claiming: “We need to keep sanctions ready for later times.”

Italy, Hungary and Cyprus are also among those that want a step-by-step approach, while central European and Baltic states – importantly, those closest to Russia – wanted a harsher stance.

Germany also resisted the call from those outside of the EU, including the UK and Canada, to ban Russia from the SWIFT system.

The bloc is also reportedly nervous to sanction the warmongering President Putin himself, with no personal sanctions placed on the dictator.

One EU diplomat expressed his distress at the EU not bothering to go far enough.

They said: “The question is, what are we waiting for on the other sanctions?

“If we can’t do SWIFT, can’t we at least not be slow on oligarchs?”

The EU’s diplomatic wing has yet to complete adjustments to its sanctions regime to make it easier to target oligarchs and their families, meaning action against big-name businesspeople could still be a long way off.

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