EU Sanctions against Russia: Ukraine Crisis – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol have seriously deteriorated EU-Russia relations. Consequently, several bilateral activities have ceased, including visa talks and talks on the new agreement with Russia are suspended;  a range of sanctions have also been adopted.

Sanctions are a tool to promote peace, democracy and respect for the rule of law, human rights and international law. They are always part of a wider, comprehensive policy approach. EU sanctions are not punitive, but designed to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, entities or individuals. At the same time, the EU makes every effort to minimise adverse consequences for the civilian population or for legitimate activities.

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1. Information on Russia and Ukraine related sanctions

What types of measures are in place as a result of Russian actions and policy towards Ukraine since March 2014?

A range of diplomatic steps and restrictive measures have been imposed on Russia, and on specific entities and individuals in response to their deliberate destabilising actions in Ukraine (or support for these actions) as well as the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia. The measures are intended to bring about a change in policy or activity by Russia and the targeted entities and individuals. They include:

  • Diplomatic measures;
  • Sanctions targeting certain individuals and entities (asset freezes and travel bans);
  • Restrictions for Crimea and Sevastopol;
  • Measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with Russia (“economic measures”, including banking and financial activities) and;
  • Suspension of the implementation of some cooperation programs.

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Why were sanctions imposed on Russia?

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia and on certain entities and persons supporting Russia’s current policy and actions in Ukraine. These actions include:

  •  Violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia.
  • Authorisation by the Federation Council of Russia on 1 March 2014 for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine (revoked on 25 June 2015).
  • Inflows of fighters and weapons from the territory of the Russian Federation into Eastern Ukraine and aggression by Russian armed forces on Ukrainian soil.

The measures are designed to bring about a change in Russian policy and in the actions of the targeted entities and persons’ towards Ukraine.

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What sanctions are in place in respect of Crimea and Sevastopol?

The EU does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia. The related sanctions prohibit certain exports and imports to and from Crimea, prohibit investment by EU-based companies in Crimea and Sevastopol, and prohibit EU operators from offering tourism services in Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. These measures have been extended until June 2016. The EU makes efforts to minimise adverse consequences for the local population.

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Who do the sanctions against individuals and entities target?

Asset freezes and restrictions on admission (visa or travel ban) are imposed against individuals, separatist organisations and entities responsible for actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. Asset freezes and visa bans apply to 146 persons while 37 entities are subject to a freeze of their assets in the EU. This includes 145 persons and 24 entities responsible for action against Ukraine's territorial integrity, six persons providing support to or benefitting Russian decision-makers and 13 entities in Crimea and Sevastopol that were confiscated or that have benefitted from a transfer of ownership contrary to Ukrainian law. These measures apply until 15 September 2016.

List of persons and entities subject to sanctions

Is there a mechanism to review or lift EU sanctions?

Listed persons and entities have the possibility of submitting a request to the Council, together with supporting documentation, that the decision to list them should be reconsidered.

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What do the "economic" sanctions consist of?

The package of restrictive measures targeting sectorial cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation consist of measures aimed at limiting access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions for loans beyond 30 days of maturity, an embargo on trade in arms, an export ban for dual use goods for military end and restrictions on access to certain sensitive technologies particularly in the oil sector.

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What are the main benchmarks for the reconsideration of the economic sanctions vis-a-vis Russia?

The EU remains ready to reverse its decisions and reengage with Russia when it starts contributing actively and without ambiguity to finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis. The European Council has agreed that the duration of the economic/sectoral measures against Russia shall be linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements. The measures are currently valid until 31 July 2016.

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What do the restrictions on cooperation programmes with Russia consist of?

On 16 July 2014, the European Council requested the European Investment Bank (EIB) to suspend the signature of new financing operations in the Russian Federation. The Council invited the Commission to re-assess EU-Russia cooperation programmes with a view to taking a decision, on a case by case basis, on the suspension of the implementation of EU bilateral and regional cooperation programmes. However, projects dealing exclusively with cross-border cooperation, people-to-people contacts and civil society will be maintained.

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What are the risks for EU businesses operating in Crimea?

In June 2015, an Information Note was issued by the European Commission to raise awareness about the risks for EU business operating and/or investing in Crimea/Sevastopol.

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2. General information on EU sanctions

How do EU sanctions work?

Sanctions are one of the EU's tools to promote the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): peace, democracy and the respect for the rule of law, human rights and international law. They are always part of a wider, comprehensive policy approach involving political dialogue and complementary efforts. EU sanctions are not punitive, but designed to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, entities or individuals. At the same time, the EU makes every effort to minimise adverse consequences for the civilian population or for legitimate activities. EU sanctions are reviewed at regular intervals. The Council of the EU decides whether sanctions should be renewed, amended or lifted. All legal acts related to EU sanctions are published in the Official Journal of the EU.

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Where do EU sanctions apply?

EU sanctions apply within the jurisdiction (territory) of the EU; to EU nationals in any location; to companies and organisations incorporated under the law of a member state - including branches of EU companies in third countries; on board of aircrafts or vessels under member states´ jurisdiction.

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Who is responsible for implementing EU sanctions?

Implementation and enforcement of EU sanctions is primarily the responsibility of the EU member states. The competent authorities in the member states have to assess whether there has been a breach of the legislation and to take adequate steps.

The European Commission has prepared guidance on how to implement the provisions concerning sectoral cooperation and exchanges with Russia (the “economic” sanctions). This note is useful for national authorities and other parties concerned for uniform action. The form of guidance is Q&A.

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3. Information relating to Russian 'retaliatory measures'

What are the retaliatory measures imposed by Russia?

The Russian Federation on 7 August 2014 unilaterally took retaliatory measures imposing restrictions for one year on all imports of agricultural products from the EU (and US, Norway, Canada and Australia). For the EU, banned products represent a value of 5.1 billion EUR, i.e. 43% of EU agricultural exports to Russia in 2013 and about 4% of total EU exports to Russia. On June 25, Russia prolonged the retaliatory measures for another year until 5 August 2016.

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What is the Russian ''stop list''?

In 2014 and 2015 several Members of the European Parliament were prevented by the Russian authorities from entering Russian territory. Following these incidents, EU representatives asked the Russian Federation to disclose the full list of European citizens who were affected by the restrictive measures of the Russian Federation, and to communicate the clear reasons why they are banned from entering the country. In stark contrast with the EU's transparent sanctions policy the Russian restrictive measures were applied in an arbitrary way without any rationale for their adoption or any forewarning of their existence. At the end of May 2015 the Russian authorities shared the names of 89 EU citizens, most of them EU officials and politicians that have been placed on a travel ban list ("stop list") in retaliation for EU restrictive measures.

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