The European Union is targeting Russian gold exports in an update to its sanctions’ packages announced on Friday that will also tighten the screws on previous measures against Moscow.
The EU has so far approved six packages of sanctions on Russia. The last one passed in June imposed a ban on most Russian oil imports.
The new measures come as “Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine continues unabated,” said EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a statement.
“We are proposing today to tighten our hard-hitting EU sanctions against the Kremlin, enforce them more effectively and extend them until January 2023. Moscow must continue to pay a high price for its aggression,” she added.
The move on gold exports fulfils a decision agreed by the world’s most industrialized nations at a G7 meeting in late June in which EU-members Germany, France and Italy took part.
The proposal from the commission, which draws up international sanctions for the bloc’s 27 countries, will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday.
The EU will look into “ways we could slap a sanctions regime on gold, which is an important commodity for exports from Russia”, Maros Sefcovic, deputy head of the European Commission, said in Prague.
“As soon as we reach an agreement at the level of member states, we will publish it,” he said ahead of a meeting of European affairs ministers held by the Czech presidency of the EU.
“We want to harmonize our sanction regime with the measures recently adopted by the G7,” Sefcovic said, adding the EU was constantly monitoring the implementation and effect of its sanctions.
“We also continuously update the lists of people targeted by the sanctions,” he said.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna on Thursday urged the EU to keep hitting Russia with new sanctions, while questioning their effectiveness.
“Nothing makes Russia so far feel accountable for (its) crimes,” she told reporters in Prague.
“We hope the next, seventh package of sanctions will have a strong restrictive potential and will be taken without further delay and as soon as possible,” said Stefanishyna.
Sefcovic added the EU would also seek to “close all exit routes for those wanting to bypass the sanctions” in the proposed update.
“It is of course a very complex mechanism, so we need to not only set up but also check, monitor and close the places that would create platforms for an exit in some way,” he said.
He waved aside any thoughts of fatigue among EU members helping Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on February 24 under President Vladimir Putin‘s orders.
“I have never seen so strongly demonstrated unity and effort from all member states… whether we talk about financial aid or arms supplies,” Sefcovic said.
“Even though it’s really difficult, we will continue because it’s the Ukrainians fighting for their freedom who are in the most difficult situation,” he added.
According to Russian customs data, Britain is the largest buyer of Russian gold with 290 tonnes in 2020 worth $16.9 billion.
But a senior EU official insisted that the EU’s decision will not be merely symbolic as “it will cut off another tap of funding for Putin’s war in Ukraine”.