EU leaders agree ‘maximum impact’ sanctions on Russia

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (2nd L) speaks with Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other attendees as they take part in a European Union leaders extraordinary summit to discuss the crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine, in Brussels on February 17, 2022. YVES HERMAN / POOL / AFP

EU leaders wrapped up an emergency summit early Friday with an agreement to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine by imposing “severe” sanctions targeting its financial, energy and transport sectors. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a media conference afterwards they “will have maximum impact on the Russian economy and the political elite”.

The summit started late Thursday, the day Russia started blasting military targets and sending tanks and paratroopers into its pro-Western neighbour Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the gathering by videolink, telling European presidents and prime ministers that “he does not know if he will be able to speak with us another time,” Luxembourg’s leader Xavier Bettel recounted as he left. Von der Leyen said the packet of sanctions — the second adopted this week by the EU — is “targeting 70 per cent of the Russian banking market, but also key state-owned companies including the field of defence”.

She did not go into details, but a list drawn up by her commission, seen by AFP, proposed adding two Russian private banks — Alfa Bank and Bank Otkritie — to entities sanctioned by the EU. It also called for Russians to be prohibited from putting deposits over 100,000 euros ($112,000) in EU banks or from purchasing euro-denominated securities.

Von der Leyen said the measures “will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base”. Energy sector targets of the sanctions included an export ban on equipment and technology Russia needs to upgrade its oil refineries. An export ban on aircraft and plane parts to Russian airlines would also “degrade a key sector of Russia’s economy and the country’s connectivity,” von der Leyen said.

“The fourth point is we are limiting Russia’s access to crucial technology — we will hit Russia’s access to important technologies it needs to build a prosperous future such as semiconductors or cutting-edge technologies,” she said. “And finally, on visas, diplomats and related groups and business people will no longer have privileged access to the European Union.”

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