EU funds arms for Ukraine while banning Russian gold
By Matina Stevis-Gridneff
European Union foreign ministers added gold to the list of banned Russian imports as part of a series of tweaks earlier this week to their far-reaching sanctions against Russia.
In a meeting in Brussels, the officials also approved 500 million euros of payments to member states that have contributed weapons to Ukraine out of their arsenals and need to replace them. The new funding increased the EU’s total spending for Ukrainian military aid to 2.5 billion euros.
“Ukraine will need more arms; we will provide them,” Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s top foreign policy official, told the news media after the meeting. “The war will continue; we will continue supporting.”
The European Union has adopted six sanctions packages against Russia since the country invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, targeting key areas of the 300-billion-euro-a-year economic relationship between the 27-country bloc and Russia.
The measures adopted Monday are not a full round of new sanctions. The bloc instead labeled them a “maintenance and alignment” package, because they mostly tighten and clarify existing sanctions and align the EU bans with those of other countries in the Group of 7 industrialized economies, which includes the United States and Canada.
In an effort to counter Russian claims that European Union sanctions are to blame for food shortages affecting developing nations in particular, the bloc said Monday that it was clarifying its rules around the shipment and insurance of grains out of Russia.
“This is part of the battle of narratives,” Borrell said, adding, “Behind each argument there has to be a figure, there has to be evidence, otherwise everyone can say whatever they like.”
The Russian blockade on Ukrainian ports has precipitated a meltdown in global grain markets, the most serious and immediate result of which is a looming famine in the Horn of Africa. Borrell called the blockade a “war crime” last month.
“The package also reiterates that EU sanctions do not target in any way the trade in agricultural products between third countries and Russia,” the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, said in a statement.
The United Nations and Turkey are leading a complex and precarious diplomatic effort to strike a deal with Russia to permit the safe export of grains from Ukraine and alleviate the pressure on the global food supply.
In exchange for an easing of the blockade, the U.N. and Turkey are offering to support Russia’s own grain and fertilizer exports. Those exports are not banned by the European Union, but they are facing problems because shipping companies no longer want to operate in Russia, and insurance companies charge sky-high premiums to underwrite such cargo because Russia has designated the Black Sea a war zone.