May 24. 2024. 5:24

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Sanctions on Russia will remain after Ukraine conflict ends, says EU envoy

The European Union’s sanctions on Russia will remain in place long after fighting in Ukraine ends, the EU’s international sanctions envoy has said, as he works to shut down the use of overseas countries as backdoors to circumvent the measures.

The EU has banned exports of military supplies to Russia and cut off economically significant trade as part of a major Western push to deny Moscow the weapons and money needed to continue to wage the war.

“I think we’re going to have to live with the sanctions for a long time, and probably additional sanctions, certainly as long as the hostilities continue,” said David O’Sullivan, who took up the role of EU’s International Special Envoy for the Implementation of EU Sanctions last month.

The long-time EU diplomat, who is originally from Dublin, is charged with reaching out to countries that have not joined the sanction effort to convince them not to allow their jurisdiction to be used for sanctions circumvention.

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“One of the messages I bring to third countries is the sanctions are going to be in place for a long time. Because even if we were to assume, which is not self-evident today, a cessation of hostilities at some point, there are going to be so many other issues to be addressed: war crimes, accountability, reparations, cost of reconstruction,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“This is not something that’s just there for a few months and will then disappear.”

The sanctions have been led by the G7 major economies joined by other pro-Western allies, but middle income and developing countries have largely declined to join the efforts to isolate Russia economically.

[ War in Europe, One Year On: Irish man upholds EU’s economic weapon against Russia ]

Mr O’Sullivan said unusual spikes in trade to some countries had fuelled concerns that they were being used to reroute prohibited trade with Russia.

“There are a number of countries where we see some unusual trade activity and commercial activity,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, also the countries of central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan also show similar, I would say, disturbing trade patterns, which lead us to to ask whether there might not be circumvention.”

The EU is pooling information about such unusual trade flows and other indications that countries are being used as back doors as it studies how to clamp down.

EU countries bordering Russia have expressed concerns about a large increase in goods crossing into Russia labelled as destined for central Asian countries. There are suspicions that customs declarations are being manipulated, and that in fact the goods never leave Russia, officials say.

“Everybody understands that it’s obvious it might be a problem,” Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister and economy minister Yulia Svyrydenko said after a meeting with EU diplomats about sanctions and evasion.

She called for new measures to hit the diamonds trade, Russia’s nuclear industry, and people and organisations involved in the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. “Everything that gives revenue to the Russian economy, everything that gives power to Russia to keep fighting.”

The EU’s 10th sanctions package, drawn up this week, is focused on closing off loopholes to ensure the sanctions in place have maximum effect.