New sanctions against Moscow and Minsk, while the Kremlin promises countermeasures that will hit “sensitive areas” of Western economies. Two weeks after the start of the aggression in Ukraine, Europe returns to tighten the grip of the restrictions that affect not only Russia. Vladimir Putin, but increasingly also the Belarus of autocrat Aleksandr Lukashenko given his active involvement in the war alongside the Kremlin. All on the eve of today’s Versailles summit, which will mark the apex of France’s European presidency. The meeting was initially conceived as a brainstorming to change the Stability Pact, and which will naturally be dedicated to the Ukrainian emergency.
Ukraine, China points the finger at the US and NATO: “They ignore their responsibilities”
Meanwhile, China is dismissing itself and contesting “unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law”. With 160 new names added to the list, the EU package expands the list of Russian oligarchs and leaders and their family members whose assets are frozen in the EU and who are banned from entering EU territory. The measure detaches from Swift, the financial messaging system that regulates international payments all over the world, three Belarusian banks (Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt and Development Bank), while energy companies are once again spared from the EU trap: after presenting its strategy to reduce imports of Russian methane, Brussels decides not to follow Washington and London, which have instead decided to cut off Moscow’s gas and oil bridges.
Yesterday, the ambassadors of the twenty-seven member states confirmed that the asset freeze also affects cryptocurrency assets: in recent days, Bitcoin had enjoyed considerable success on the markets, demonstrating the fact that it was immediately seen as a digital safe haven asset. to protect capital from Western measures. An interpretation now denied by the clarification arrived from Brussels. In detail, 14 prominent entrepreneurs involved in key economic sectors ended up on the EU black list – from the CEO of the national airline Aeroflot to the former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin, son of an oligarch who produces fertilizers -, together with 146 members of the Council of the Russian Federation. Stop to exports to Moscow also for the maritime sector, while transactions with the Central Bank of Minsk and deposits exceeding 100 thousand euros for Belarusian citizens in the EU are prohibited. If Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte explained that “the sanctions are working”, Estonian colleague Kaja Kallas invited “patience” to evaluate their disruptive effects.
Meanwhile, Russia – a senior foreign ministry official said – is working on a “rapid” and “thoughtful” response to the restrictions imposed by the West: the countermeasures will target “the most sensitive areas” of the economy, threatens Moscow. On the other hand, Beijing is out of the way: the block on imports of Russian fuels announced by the US “will only cause serious difficulties for people and the economy and aggravate divisions”, said a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, confirming that “energy cooperation is underway” between China and Russia will continue smoothly. Yesterday the European Parliament approved by a large majority a resolution calling for a stop to gold passports purchased with ease in various EU countries, from Malta to Cyprus, by Russian oligarchs, while also the Davos Economic Forum, meeting point of the global financial elite, has severed relations with Moscow.