EU ambassadors on Wednesday agreed on the newest round of sanctions against Russia, paving the way for a ban on Russian gold while introducing exceptions for sanctioned banks for wheat and fertilizers, four EU diplomats confirmed.
The sanctions can now be adopted in writing for the final step, a formality which is expected to happen Thursday.
To put a dent in Russia's war finances, the EU previously sanctioned a number of Russian banks. Now, in an attempt to counter Russia's narrative that EU sanctions are leading to global food shortages, the bloc is set to introduce exceptions for "the purchase, import or transport of agricultural and food products, including wheat and fertilisers" of certain banks whose assets have been frozen. As reported by POLITICO, EU countries will be able to approve those transactions if deemed necessary.
According to a draft shared with EU countries Tuesday evening, the exceptions apply to all banks listed for Russia's actions in Ukraine, bar the National Commercial Bank, which was sanctioned in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. The EU is also set to sanction Sberbank, according to the draft. Sberbank was taken off the international payment system SWIFT in the bloc’s last package.
The sanctions package also includes a ban on gold imports — including jewelry — from Russia and sanctions on 48 more people, and nine groups and companies.
The sanctions also introduce stricter reporting requirements for asset freezes of sanctioned individuals, and tightens dual-use and advanced-technology export controls. For example, the plans to ban exports to Russia of tear-gas, fingerprinting ink, police helmets and shields, as well as water cannons, according to the draft.
While initially an adoption was foreseen for Wednesday morning, EU diplomats broke off the discussions over some technical issues. The latest text sent out by the Commission included a new derogation for ships that had sailed under Russian flags or were registered in Russia but changed their flag before April 16 of this year. They will be allowed to dock at European ports if "the access is necessary for the unloading of goods strictly necessary for the completion of renewable energy projects in the Union."