GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 627, 10 April 2022

New actions and sanctions on Russia
Harini Madhusudan

What happened? 
On 8 April, the European Union adopted a new set of sanctions, banning the import of wood, coal, and chemicals, among other products, from Russia. These sanctions are estimated to impact up to ten per cent of the total imports from Moscow. Further, the sanctions aim to prevent access to the EU to Russian trucks and vessels. A ban has also been imposed on all transactions with four Russian Banks. Furthermore, the Commission blacklisted an additional 217 people, including President Putin’s two daughters. It also banned the exports of quantum computers, jet fuel, advanced semiconductors, high-end electronics and other technology. The US and G7 member countries have launched an aggressive imposition of sanctions and estimate that it would erase or contract the Russian GDP by 15 per cent or more in 2022. 

On 7 April, the UN General Assembly voted for a US-led resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" was cited as the reason. Following the resolution, the Russian representative stated that Moscow had already decided to leave the Council before the end of its term, claiming that the Council was monopolised by a group of States who use it for their short-term aims. 

What is the background? 
First, a brief note on sanctions since invasion. Over 44 days into the Ukraine war, sanctions have remained the primary response from the majority of the West and its allies. The US, UK, the EU, G7 member countries, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, and South Korea, have been prominent in the sanctions. During the first few rounds, there were full blocking sanctions on the 328 Russian Duma members. Another highlight was the ban of major Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging services. Many MNCs boycotted Russia, suspended their services or moved out of the region. 48 Russian defence companies were targeted by sanctions. Some imposed export controls, while others freezed individual assets. Turkey has restricted the Russian ships from using its waterways. 

The latest sanctions by the US, EU, and the G7 target the energy sector by banning coal; the loss is estimated to be an annual 8 billion euros loss for Russia. While the sanctions have not included the oil and gas industries, this adds to the import bans on the steel and iron sectors from the initial round of sanctions. These direct sanctions target Russian exports by one-fifth of their value. In addition to the same, the EU has restricted one-quarter of its total value of exports to Russia, which includes jet fuel, software, sensitive/critical machinery, and transportation equipment, among others, with a total value of 10 billion euros a year. The EU has also Blacklisted nearly 900 individuals and entities of Russian origin, including travel bans on Vladimir Putin. Josep Borrell, in his statement said: "These latest sanctions were adopted following the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha and other places under Russian occupation."

Second, the human rights violations in Bucha and beyond. The suspension of Russia from the UNHRC marks the second time a country being dismissed since its founding in 2006. Disturbing and outrageous images from the town of Bucha surfaced following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. The images show civilian bodies from the town neighbouring Kyiv, and streets lined with bodies that appear to have been executed and left in the open or buried as mass graves. The images drew much attention to the systemic violation of human rights by the Russian troops in cities like Bucha and Borodyanka. The residents/ survivors have given gruesome depictions of harassment and killings. Human Rights Watch said it had documented the war crimes of the Russian troops in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv. 

Third, the Russian response. The Russian foreign ministry called the suspension from the UNHRC, as "illegal and politically motivated, aimed at ostentatiously punishing a sovereign UN member state that pursues an independent domestic and foreign policy." On 4 April, responding to the Bucha videos, the Kremlin Spokesperson denounced its validity video. He revealed that the defence specialists detected signs of video forgery and various fakes. Russia continues its offensive in the South and East of Ukraine.  Russia, in the past, has responded with an equal and challenging set of counter-sanctions. To the latest round of sanctions, Moscow stated that these sanctions as an extension of an “absolutely rabid position on the imposition of restrictions,” specifically in the line of imposing sanctions on family members. Each time the West has imposed a set of economic sanctions, there has been no change in the Russian aggression or the approach in negotiations so far.

What does it mean?
First, the efficacy of sanctions and their likely implications. The primary impact of the economic sanctions on Russia has begun to show in the global economic slow-downs and rising prices. On the other hand, the sanctions have sufficiently managed to isolate Russia from most of the global- mostly western economy. However, this pressure has failed to dent in the Russian efforts in Ukraine. The Russian economy did not see a drastic fall in the value of its currency. 

Second, the civilian targets. At the beginning of March, after Russian troops faced their initial losses, the strategy shifted to a war of attrition. Cities, ports, and civilian zones were all bombarded with disregard for the safety of the unarmed. In such severe cases, all actions to condemn the aggressor would always remain insufficient. The suspension of Russia from the UNHRC has made a statement on the civilian atrocities by the aggressor.

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