BRUSSELS (Agencies): The European Union has approved a tenth package of sanctions against Russia on the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, EU officials said.
The latest round of sanctions provides for additional trade restrictions on Russia, the Swedish EU Council Presidency announced in Brussels, and are designed to make financing the war more difficult as well as starve Russia of tech equipment and spare parts for arms used against Ukraine. The package includes tighter export restrictions regarding dual-use goods as well as measures against entities supporting Russia’s war, including spreading propaganda in support of the invasion and delivering drones used by Russia to attack Ukraine.
“Together, the EU member states have imposed the most forceful and far-reaching sanctions ever to help Ukraine win the war,” the EU presidency announced on Twitter. “The EU stands united with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We will keep supporting Ukraine, for as long as it takes.”
The measures are also meant to blacklist more individuals including what the West says are Russian propagandists, those Kyiv holds responsible for deporting Ukrainian children to Russia and those involved in the production of Iranian drones deployed on the front line of the war. The package was also designed to cut off more Russian banks, including the private Alfa-Bank and the online bank Tinkoff, from the global system SWIFT and cut trade between the EU and Russia by more than 10 billion euros ($10.5bn), according to the bloc’s executive.
With just two hours to go to midnight on Friday, negotiators from EU member states made it across the finish line to agree on the sanctions after Poland earlier threw a spanner into the works. Warsaw had said the proposed restrictions on EU imports of Russian rubber included such a big quota of imports exempted, and such long transition periods, that they would have no effect in practice.
Other EU countries were baffled that Warsaw – a leading Russia hawk in the bloc – was risking having no new sanctions announced on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s attack against Ukraine over just one element of a broader package. All member states need to approve sanctions for them to be enacted, making negotiations among the 27 often tedious and lengthy.
“This is very bad optics. What was supposed to be key here is a message of solidarity with Ukraine on this special day,” said one diplomat involved in the confidential negotiations between the 27 EU countries in the bloc’s hub Brussels. Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal posed in front of four Leopard battle tanks provided by Poland and posted a series of photos of them being handed over as his embattled nation marked a year since the start of the invasion.
Shmyhal stood with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for the images posted on Telegram. “A year ago, tanks went to Ukraine to deprive Ukrainians of their freedom,” Schmyhal said. “Today, tanks have also entered Ukraine, but to protect freedom.”
Poland is giving Ukraine 14 Leopard A2 tanks. Morawiecki also said 60 PT-91 main battle tanks would be provided after they were promised in January. The PT-91 Twardy is a Polish combat vehicle based on the Soviet T-72 tank but further developed and modernised. Earlier, Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said Ukrainian soldiers would be trained by Polish, Canadian and Norwegian instructors at the Leopard training centre in western Poland.