Poland, Ireland and the Baltics call for EU sanctions against Gazprombank and Russian-made diamonds

Gazprombank, the entity that has been instrumental in gas payments between Russia and the European Union, is set to be kicked out of the SWIFT system in the next round of EU sanctions, according to a joint Polish proposal , Ireland and the three Baltic States.

In a document obtained by Euronews, the five member states present a series of measures in response to Vladimir Putin’s plans bring up to 300,000 reservists into the Russian army and organize referendums in the occupied territories of eastern and southern Ukraine.

The votes, seen by pundits as a possible prelude to outright annexation, were harshly condemned by Western countries as a “sham”.

The mobilization decree and referendums are fueling calls for a new round of EU sanctions against Russia.

“I think this again calls for sanctions on our part,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. said this week.

Since the Kremlin launched the invasion of Ukraine, the bloc has imposed six rounds of sanctions, along with complementary measures to refine their effectiveness and expand their reach.

The Commission said the next package will focus on civilian technology, without providing further details.

In their joint document, Poland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania suggest the path the bloc should choose to put pressure on Russia.

The five countries want Gazprombank to be permanently kicked out of SWIFT, a highly secure system that enables financial transactions. The Moscow-based bank acts as an intermediary between EU customers and Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, and enables the conversion of euros into rubles.

Given that several Central and Eastern European countries remain heavily dependent on the gas pipeline from Russia, Gazprombank has so far been spared from SWIFT’s blacklist, a notable omission that Ukrainian officials have repeatedly criticized.

The document also proposes a ban on EU companies providing any type of insurance service to the Russian government, agencies and businesses. The measure provides for an exemption if the insured risk is located on EU territory or if it concerns diplomatic missions.

When it comes to technology, the five countries offer a long list of products and services whose trade should either be banned or severely restricted, such as the export of smartphones, cameras, projectors, lasers, radio devices, lenses and prisms manufactured in the EU, as well as computer software, hardware maintenance, web hosting services and cybersecurity systems.

The group is also proposing an EU-wide ban on the use of technology developed by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian multinational known for its world-renowned antivirus.

The ban on diamonds, back on the table

Beyond technology, Poland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are uniting to ban the import of diamonds originating in or processed in Russia.

The EU has already halted the export of its diamonds to Russia in an attempt to harm the country’s wealthy elite, but Russia is still allowed to send diamonds to the bloc market.

According to international trade centerRussian diamond exports were worth $4.5 billion in 2021.

Their first destination is Belgiumwhose Antwerp diamond center dominates the international market for the cutting and polishing of precious materials.

In recent months, the Belgian government has come under scrutiny over its perceived opposition to a further restriction on the diamond trade with Russia.

“The diamond trade in Antwerp has adapted over the months of this conflict and choices have been made,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said. said last weekspeaking in the Flemish city.

“If you look at the situation today and the volume of trade with Russia compared to before the war, we are in a new world and these are deliberate choices that were made in Antwerp.”

De Croo noted that “sanctions should focus more on the aggressor rather than on ourselves.”

In another section of the joint document, the five countries propose to ban the sale of EU-based real estate to any Russian national, resident or company – unless they have the right of permanent residence.

Poland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also suggest that the EU broaden its definition of the energy sector to impose restrictions on trade in nuclear technology.

EU sanctions must be unanimously approved by all 27 member states.

“We support the strongest possible sanctions, but we are also aware that strength lies in solidarity and unanimity. We will therefore work in this direction,” said a diplomat from one of the five signatories.

“We hope to adopt the new package next week.”

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