The Council of the EU has approved this Friday the sixth round of sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, the most painful blow so far for the coffers of the Kremlin, but also the one that has required the most time to agree on the 27 partners community. Among the new measures, the blacklist of those sanctioned is extended to which 65 Russian and Ukrainian citizens are added, including Alina Kabaeva (Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 39 years old), the alleged girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
100 days after Putin ordered a large-scale attack on Ukraine, the EU has included Kabaeva, the woman who has been considered his lover for years, on its sanctions list. The former gymnast, one of the most recognized Russian athletes before being shoehorned in as a member of Putin’s party (United Russia), was awarded as the head of the National Media Group in September 2014, shortly after the war of Donbas. Brussels is thus following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which in mid-May sanctioned the board of the National Media Group, a holding company that owns large stakes in almost all the main Russian federal media, which broadcast Kremlin propaganda. Kabaeva was also for years a member of the State Duma.
The alleged relationship between the Olympic medalist – in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens in 2004 – and Putin has been the subject of speculation since it was revealed in 2008 by the newspaper Moskovski Correspondent, already closed. The Kremlin has subsequently denied various reports suggesting that they could have been parents. The EU document accuses Kabaeva of “supporting actions that undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
The sanctions have also reached the families of other positions close to the Russian president, such as that of his own spokesman, Dmitri Peskov. His son Dmitri and his wife Elizaveta will be banned from traveling to Europe and their assets on the continent could be frozen. Another new sanctioned is Marina Mordashova, wife of Alexei Mordashov, one of the richest men in Russia. Mordashov, chairman of the steel giant Severstal, has already been sanctioned four days after the Russian offensive on Ukraine began.
Another citizen to appear on the EU blacklist is Arkady Volozh, founder of Yandex, the Russian alternative to Google. Volozh has reacted by submitting his resignation from all positions at the company, which covers everything from internet searches to taxi and food delivery services. “While I consider this to have been a wrong and ultimately counterproductive decision, I do not intend to issue any guidance through a family trust while the sanctions are in place,” Volozh said in a statement.
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In addition to the 65 personalities punished for their direct or indirect support of the Kremlin and, therefore, of the offensive on Ukraine, Brussels has also sanctioned 18 legal entities, including the Moscow Stock Exchange and the historic truck manufacturer Kamaz.
A blow of more than 60,000 million
The new sanctions, which will come into force as soon as they are published in the Official Gazette of the EU, will destroy the business model of Russian exports, which have 50% of their market in the Union. In 2021, the EU imported €48 billion worth of Russian crude oil and €23 billion of refined products. Brussels calculates that the approved punishment will deprive Moscow of 90% of those revenues at the end of the year, which can leave a hole of more than 60,000 million euros in the Russian coffers. The Putin regime is looking for alternative buyers, with India as its main emerging client. But Russian oil companies are forced to offer their products in those markets at discounts that, according to analysts, already reach 30% in relation to the price charged in Europe.
The approval of this sixth battery of sanctions has required almost four weeks of negotiation since they were announced on May 4 by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. Bargaining has forced the prohibition to be restricted to oil imported by ship, which accounts for two-thirds of the total, and to continue tolerating for the moment that which arrives by pipeline. The exceptions introduced will allow the countries most dependent on Russian oil, such as Hungary, the Czech Republic or Bulgaria, to maintain their purchases. But two of the main European markets for Russian oil, Germany and Poland, will be closed even for imports by pipeline, which guarantees the tremendous financial impact of the sanction.
The sixth round also includes the disconnection of the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, from the Swift financial messaging system, a vital instrument for the international relations of the financial sector. In the field of Russian propaganda, the EU prohibits the broadcast in community territory of three television channels that are considered to be linked to the Kremlin.