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EU agrees new sanctions against Russia, targeting Chinese companies suspected of circumvention

The latest raft of EU sanctions against Russia is designed to tackle the issue of circumvention.
The latest raft of EU sanctions against Russia is designed to tackle the issue of circumvention. Copyright Pavel Byrkin/Sputnik
Copyright Pavel Byrkin/Sputnik
By Jorge LiboreiroEfi Koutsokosta
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The European Union agreed on Wednesday to slap Russia with a new raft of sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

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The main objective of the 11th package is to crack down on the circumvention of the multiple penalties that have been imposed since February 2022.

Brussels has grown increasingly concerned about a steep rise in EU exports to countries in Russia's periphery, such as Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, a possible red flag that prohibited items are making their way into the Kremlin's hands.

The new sanctions reinforce export bans and target a limited set of non-Russian companies that are suspected of taking part in the evasion.

The list includes three China-based companies, several diplomats told Euronews, speaking on condition of anonymity because the final document is not yet public.

This marks the first time China, one of the few allies that Moscow has left on the international stage, becomes directly entangled in the EU sanctions against Russia.

The selection, however, was initially wider: five Chinese firms were removed from the list of sanctions during negotiations as a result of pressure from Beijing and demands from certain member states, a diplomat said. (The information was previously reported by the South China Morning Post.)

The list also features a handful of companies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uzbekistan, whose names were not revealed, another diplomat said.

The sanctions agreed on Wednesday afternoon also introduce a novel mechanism to restrict the sale and transfer of sensitive technology and dual-use products to other countries that are considered to be enabling circumvention.

The mechanism, focused on entire nations rather than particular companies, marks an important evolution in the EU's foreign policy but officials say it will be triggered only as a last resort and in exceptional cases.

Additionally, the sanctions blacklist 71 people and 33 entities accused of being involved in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

''I welcome the political agreement on our 11th sanctions package," said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

''It will deal a further blow to Putin’s war machine with tightened export restrictions, targeting entities supporting the Kremlin. Our anti-circumvention tool will prevent Russia from getting its hands on sanctioned goods.''

The breakthrough comes mere hours after the Ukrainian authorities decided to temporarily suspend the listing of five Greek shipping companies included in the list of ''international sponsors of war.''

Greece and Hungary had for weeks blocked the agreement on the new sanctions, which were proposed more than a month ago, in protest of the designation of their domestic companies.

Nevertheless, Kyiv kept intact the listing of OTP Bank, Hungary's largest commercial bank. The firm, which serves over 2.4 million clients in Russia, has previously described its addition to the list as ''unjustified.''

The new sanctions will enter into force after their publication in the EU's official journal, when the names of the targeted companies will become known.

This article has been updated with more information about the sanctions.

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