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15 Dec, 2023 07:17

EU state’s leader skipped Russian sanctions vote – Politico

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who opposed the restrictions, was reportedly out of the room when the decision was made
EU state’s leader skipped Russian sanctions vote – Politico

European Union member states have agreed to a 12th package of sanctions against Russia; however, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who had been holding up a decision on the latest set of punitive measures targeting Moscow, was reportedly not in the room, Politico reported.

While the text of the package had been agreed upon by all countries earlier this week, Austria reportedly wasn’t able to give its final approval until late Thursday, saying it needed time to examine the legal text. Reuters earlier wrote that sources familiar with the matter said the country had been trying to have Raiffeisen Bank International, the largest Western bank still operating in Russia, taken off a Ukrainian blacklist in return for Vienna’s willingness to sign off on new EU sanctions against Moscow.

European diplomats told Politico that Nehammer’s absence was just a coincidence, as he had left the room to speak with EC President Ursula von der Leyen about the EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria. However, ironically, earlier in the day, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán seemed to have resorted to the same maneuver. Orban left the leaders’ room when they decided to go ahead with accession talks for Ukraine, to allow for a unanimous decision in what the media wrote was “the coffee break that saved Ukraine’s membership talks.”

According to Reuters, despite Austria’s reported efforts to take it off Ukraine’s blacklist, Raiffeisen is still there. The new penalties include a direct ban on imports of non-industrial Russian diamonds starting from January 1 and a phased ban on diamond imports from third countries starting from March, in alignment with the G7 countries. Other sanctions include toughening the proof required of companies which claim they adhere to the G7 Russian oil price cap.

The package also added measures to prevent Russia from getting dual-use goods by obliging EU companies’ counterparties to sign contracts when buying certain products which prohibit their re-sale to Russia. A notification procedure for Russian citizens or entities in Russia wishing to transfer more than 100,000 euros (over $109,000) out of the EU was also incorporated into the sanctions package.

The EU has already imposed 11 rounds of sanctions on Russia since the beginning of its conflict with Ukraine in early 2022, aiming to weaken the country’s economy by depriving it of access to critical technology and markets, and by curtailing its income from the export of raw materials. In response, Russia has redirected much of its trade to Asia, primarily India and China. Speaking during a marathon Q&A session on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the US and its allies are largely “shooting themselves in the foot” by slapping Russia with new sanctions, which he said ended up hurting them more than they did Moscow.