Ukrainian crisis: what are sanctions? Explanation of UK and EU sanctions against Russia

Amid rising tensions, the UK has recently joined other Western powers in imposing sanctions on Russia.

On February 22, Russia moved troops into two rebel-held areas of Ukraine after weeks of tension over Ukraine being allowed to join NATO.

Britain, the United States and other Western countries have publicly condemned Russia’s actions and advocated for Ukraine’s right to choose its own security alliances.

Women display placards in support of Ukraine during a street demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine in Berlin, Germany. Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber.

As the conflict escalates with the latest Russian troop movements, sanctions are the next step in trying to dissuade Russia from its peaceful path.

At the same time, military units from various NATO member countries, including the US and the UK, have been deployed to NATO countries in Eastern Europe such as Poland, Romania and Estonia.

This is what sanctions are, how they have been applied in the past, and what will be imposed on Russia.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefs MPs on the latest situation in Ukraine in the House of Commons. Photo: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP.

What are sanctions?

Sanctions refer to penalties ranging from travel bans to withholding of goods that are enforced when organizations or countries break laws.

The use of sanctions is not new and goes back to ancient Greek civilization.

In more recent history, sanctions have been applied several times throughout the 20th century, including after World War II, when the UN enshrined sanctions in its original charter and gave the UN Security Council the ability to impose sanctions in the future.

Another example can be found in the international sanctions imposed against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s, which resulted in about $20 billion worth of business being withheld by South African businesses.

The purpose of sanctions is to put pressure on businesses, organizations or individuals in the hope that they will refuse any support provided.

What sanctions will be imposed against Russia?

In the case of Russia, the sanctions are mainly aimed at preventing Russia from funding its military efforts and trying to undermine the political authority of the Kremlin.

The United States announced the sanctions on Tuesday, February 22, meaning that the two state-owned banks that back Russia’s defense sector will no longer be able to do business in the United States or access the American financial system.

The United States also said it would sanction five members of the Russian elite and added restrictions on US transactions involving Russia’s government debt.

As a result, Americans are now banned from doing business in rebel-held areas of Lugansk and Donetsk.

The White House also said it could impose broader sanctions “if Russia continues to invade Ukraine.”

UK sanctions against Russia

The assets of five Russian banks were frozen and three members of the Russian elite were given a travel ban.

Mr. Johnson said those sanctions could be added and expanded if needed, and faced criticism that the sanctions did not go far enough.

EU sanctions against Russia

The EU also announced sanctions against 27 Russian individuals and entities, including several banks.

Access to European capital markets will also be restricted, effectively blocking access to funds from EU banks and prohibiting trade between the EU and Lugansk and Donetsk.

Also, 351 deputies of the Russian Duma, the lower parliamentary chamber, fell under the sanctions.

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