European Union countries agreed on a 12th package of sanctions against Russia, the European Council said. New highly-expected measures against the aggressor state mean that a phased ban on Russian diamond imports, among other restrictions, will come into effect on January 1, 2024.
The EU leaders officially confirmed this information in the conclusions released after the first day of the EU summit in Brussels, as reported by Reuters.
In this document, the European Council announced the approval of the sanctions decision: “The European Council welcomes the adoption of the 12th sanctions package.”.
In addition, the decision announces “an agreement on a Directive on the definition of criminal offenses and penalties for violations of EU restrictive measures.”
Why Austria gave its final approval at the very last moment?
Reuters, citing European diplomats, reported that the EU member states agreed upon the text of the sanctions bill earlier this week, while Austria gave its final approval only on Thursday evening.
The addition of the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International to the list of international sponsors of the war by Ukraine caused Austria’s dissatisfaction.
Reuters’ sources familiar with the topic said Austria tried to obtain the removal of Raiffeisen Bank International, the biggest Western bank in Russia, from the Ukrainian blacklist in return for signing off on the new EU sanctions on Russia.
Ban Russian non-industrial diamond imports
The 12th EU package of anti-Russia sanctions includes a direct ban on Russian non-industrial diamond imports from January 1. Starting in March, the Group of Seven (G7) countries will align with a phased ban on diamond imports from third countries.
New sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine
Other EU sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine include tightening the proof required from companies that claim they adhere to the G7 Russian oil price cap.
New sanctions also added restrictions to prevent Russia from acquiring dual-use goods by making EU companies have their trade partners on specific products sign contracts prohibiting re-export to Russia.
New sanctions package is expected by February 2024
According to the media, the EU will try to agree on another package of sanctions against Russia by the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2024.
Issue with the Austrian Raiffeisen bank, operating in Russia
Earlier this week, EU ambassadors failed to reach an agreement on the 12th package of EU sanctions against Russia due to Austria’s position on Raiffeisen Bank.
Raiffeisen is one of the most important financial channels through which Russian businesses conduct transactions in dollars and euros. As a result, the bank receives huge profits, from which it then finances the budget of the aggressor country with its taxes.