EU imposes sanctions on Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov
On Friday, EU member states agreed to freeze assets of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
The action against Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov comes after European Union envoys agreed on a new round of sanctions aimed at Russia’s elite and preventing 70 percent of the country’s financial system from operating. “We’ve added President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov to the list,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said as she met with her EU counterparts to discuss the latest sanctions. “They are to blame for the murders of innocent people in Ukraine, as well as for violating international law. That is unacceptable to us as Europeans”, she further added.
Although the Russian leaders may not have vast assets in Europe, a senior EU diplomat said the move against them individually was “a politically significant statement.” Putin now joins only two other international leaders sanctioned by the EU, according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
The new set of sanctions might be followed by a third, according to Borrell, but only if necessary. As Moscow’s soldiers marched on Kyiv earlier on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Europe to act more promptly and decisively in putting sanctions on Moscow, accusing western partners of politicking. “You can still put a halt to the aggression. You must respond quickly “He went on to say that Russians should not be allowed to join the EU, that Moscow should be shut off from the SWIFT global interbank payments system, and that an oil embargo should be considered.
With the decision of EU ministers on comprehensive sanctions, the EU has joined the US and other Western countries in limiting Russia’s access to crucial technologies and financing. The EU’s sanctions will also target Russian elites and make it more difficult for diplomats to travel, but the group has decided not to slash Russian energy imports or cut Russia off from SWIFT, despite opposition from Germany and Italy, among others.
Taking Russia out of SWIFT remained an option, but only as a “financial nuclear weapon” of last resort, according to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who is holding a meeting of EU counterparts in Paris to examine the economic consequences. Some EU countries – but not France – are wary of such a move, he said, and the European Central Bank is due to issue an analysis “in the coming hours” on the implications.
Individuals, such as those wanting to send money to relatives in Russia, could be harmed by the SWIFT option, according to Baerbock, “whereas those who are responsible for the bloodshed will still be able to perform their bank business.”
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