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17 Aug, 2022 11:21

West threatens Russia with 'blood diamonds' label – NYT

Moscow has previously criticized efforts to politicize its diamond trade, branding it “political demagogy”
West threatens Russia with 'blood diamonds' label – NYT

Western powers including the US, EU and Canada are pushing to have Russia labeled an exporter of conflict diamonds, arguing that the gemstone trade is filling the pockets of the Kremlin and allowing it to continue its military offensive in Ukraine, the New York Times wrote on Tuesday.

The paper says US State Department representative George Cajati called for the measure in a letter sent to the Kimberley Process – a UN-backed organization that aims to prevent “conflict” or so-called “blood diamonds” from entering the world market due to them being unethically sourced or used to finance regional conflicts.

In the letter, which was sent to the organization back in May, Cajati insisted that the profits from Russia’s diamond trade were “benefiting the same state that is conducting a premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war.” His position was backed by the EU, Canada, a number of other Western nations, and Ukraine.

Russia is the world's largest supplier of small diamonds, and the US has for years been one of the biggest markets for the gems, where they are often used for engagement rings, earrings and pendants.

According to the NYT, which cites US Government data, in 2021, Russia’s diamond exports accounted for over $4.5 billion, making it Moscow’s largest non-energy export by value.

While a number of Western countries such as the US have already introduced restrictions on buying diamonds directly from Russia, the measure only extends to uncut diamonds. The NYT explains that this technicality means that gems sent by Moscow to India for refining, for example, can still make their way to US markets after being labeled as of Indian origin.

In June the Kimberley Process tried to raise the issue of Russian diamonds, but no decision was reached due to a veto from Russia, China and Belarus, who were backed by Kyrgyzstan, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Russia’s Finance Ministry has condemned attempts by the West to label Russia as an exporter of “blood diamonds” as “absolutely baseless” and nothing short of “political demagogy” according to a statement sent to the Kimberley Process in June and seen by Reuters.

“The Russian Federation categorically condemns the orchestrated attempts by the Civil Society Coalition, with the support of an absolute minority of some Western participants, to politicize the work of the Kimberley Process by deliberately distorting or even openly substituting its basic principles,” the ministry wrote.

Moscow has insisted that its diamonds are in line with all environmental, social and governance standards established by the Kimberley Process, and has noted that the Russian mines support the livelihoods of almost a million living in the northeastern region of Yakutia, who heavily depend on the stability of the diamond mining industry.

The next meeting of the Kimberley Process is scheduled for November, although some fear that the organization may deteriorate into yet another political battlefield. Hans Merket, a diamond industry and human rights researcher and member of the Kimberley Process, told the NYT that the group had become “an organ of bureaucrats” and raised concerns that political squabbles were sidetracking important work as “problematic” diamonds were being endorsed to falsely reassure jewelry buyers, while serious problems were being ignored.