The EU is poised to hit Moscow with new financial sanctions, trade sanctions and bans on Russian nationals serving on the boards of key European infrastructure companies such as the power grid, EU diplomats and officials told POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook.
The European Commission briefed a small group of EU ambassadors over the weekend after Executive President Ursula von der Leyen announced some elements of the 10th sanctions package at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last Thursday.
Brussels is set to include new financial sanctions against four Russian banks, including the country’s largest private bank, Alfa-Bank, founded by Russian-Israeli tycoon Mikhail Fridman.
The EU is also considering banning Russian citizens from serving on the boards of key infrastructure companies in the EU, such as electricity grids or gas suppliers.
There will also be a new list of about 130 entities and people. These include Russian military leaders, officials installed by Russia in occupied territories of Ukraine, and journalists working for Russian state media outlets such as Russia Today. Also included would be companies and individuals from other countries linked to Russia’s war effort or the Wagner mercenary group and Iran, which is accused of selling drones and components to the Russian military.
According to European officials, the EU is preparing trade sanctions on imports of Russian rubber and asphalt and on exports of EU products to Russia, including trucks, other heavy vehicles, construction machines, pumps and other equipment used in the construction sector. The package includes additional export restrictions on electronic components that Russia could use to make weapons.
It’s unclear, officials said, whether the diamond will make it into the package. Belgium, whose port city of Antwerp is a global center for the diamond trade, is working with the European Commission and the G7 on an international traceability system for Russian diamonds. Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Crewe is under domestic political pressure to include sanctions on Russian diamonds in the 10th sanctions package.
To counter the sanctions, Brussels is planning to list a Dubai-based shipping company suspected of helping Russia evade sanctions on oil exports. The company is believed to have bought several Russian oil tankers, which are no longer allowed to ship oil due to EU and international sanctions on Russian-owned companies. Under their new Emirati ownership, the tankers can once again ship oil.
An EU country has now asked the European Union to list that company in a new sanctions package to prevent it from expanding Russia’s oil export capacity, two people involved in or briefed on sanctions negotiations told POLITICO.
But two diplomats and an official warned there had been some opposition from Mediterranean countries during talks with the European Commission. The tankers used to operate under the Cypriot flag in the past, but are now believed to have converted their flags to tax havens – so there should no longer be a valid reason for any EU country to oppose action against these vessels, one of them argued.
EU ambassadors will discuss the package at their meeting on Wednesday.