Freight train in Belarus, source: Belarusian Railway

New EU sanctions on Russia and Belarus, targeting export and banks

Freight train in Belarus, source: Belarusian Railway

A new set of sanctions has been approved by the European Union, targeting “individuals and entities involved in the Russian aggression of Ukraine, as well as several sectors of the Russian economy”. This was announced late Monday, 14 March.

The EU sanctions against Russia will include, among others, an import ban on Russian steel and iron, a ban on investments in oil companies and the energy sector, and restrictions on the export of luxury items including cars with a value of more than 50,000 euros, explains sanction lawyer Sebastiaan Bennink of BenninkAmar.

What more?

The new package also suspends the application of the most-favored-nation clause for Russia, in addition to the examination of Belarus’ application for accession to the WTO. This means that Russian companies will no longer receive special treatment throughout the bloc.

Furtermore, three Belarusian banks have been excluded from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions. Altogether, EU restrictive measures now apply to a total of 862 individuals and 53 entities.

Why sanctions?

With the sanctions, the EU is responding to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. On Friday, it warned that a fourth wave of sanctions would be implemented if Russia continued the invasion of Ukraine. Russia has since then not changed its course.

The first wave of EU sanctions were announced on 25 February, just days after Russian military forces entered Ukraine. The sanctions targeted the financial sector, energy sector, transport sector, export controls and financing and visa policy. That same weekend, a second wave of sanctions followed, excluding important Russian banks from the SWIFT system, banning transactions of Russia’s central bank and freezing all its assets. On 2 March, the EU extended sanctions on Russian banks in what is called the third wave of sanctions.

Belarus

The new sanctions are also increasing the pressure on Belarus. Excluding banks from the SWIFT system means that these banks will not be able to receive or carry out payments to companies abroad. When international companies do business with companies in Belarus, they will need to do a due diligence check, making sure that these banks are not involved in any of their transactions.

From the beginning, sanctions have targeted Belarus, in response to its supporting role for Russia. These sanctions include a halt on exports of products from mineral fuels to tobacco, wood and timber, cement, iron and steel. Export restrictions on dual-use goods for Russia also apply to Belarus. “This will avoid any risks of circumvention of our measures against Russia”, said Ursula von der Leyen on 27 February.

Watch the webinar about sanctions

Do you want to understand what sanctions mean for your business? On 1 March we held a webinar with practical information about the sanctions that were in place at that time. You can watch this webinar here.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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