In 2014, as the situation in Ukraine deteriorated, Western countries gradually upgraded their response, progressing from Tier 1 (diplomatic) sanctions, to Tier 2 (individuals/entities) sanctions, before finally adopting Tier 3 (economic) sanctions – the most costly for both sides, and hence also the most controversial. Russia retaliated with its own counter-sanctions.
EU and other Western sanctions against Russia
Tier 1 – diplomatic sanctions (March-April 2014; indefinite)
EU and other Western countries have suspended talks with Russia on:
• (EU-Russia) visa facilitation and modernisation of the partnership agreement between the two sides; no bilateral summits held since 2013;
• a (US-Russia) bilateral investment treaty;
• (Switzerland/New Zealand-Eurasian Customs Union): free trade agreements.
International organisations have put cooperation with Russia on hold:
• OECD: Russian accession process suspended;
• NATO: all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia suspended;
• G8: reverted to G7 format; Russian participation suspended;
• Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE): voting and other rights of the Russian delegation to the Assembly suspended (10 April 2014). Since then, Russia has not participated in PACE, although in other respects it remains a full member of the Council of Europe and is not planning to leave.
Tier 2 – sanctions against individuals and organisations (adopted March 2014, amended several times since; renewed every six months, next due for renewal on 15 March 2018)
In March 2014, the US and the EU imposed visa bans and asset freezes on certain Russian and Ukrainian individuals and organisations. The EU’s list has been gradually expanded to 149 persons and 38 organisations, including:
• Russian/Ukrainian politicians and officials publicly supporting violations of Ukrainian sovereignty: Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky;
• military leaders, such as Black Sea Fleet Commander, Aleksandr Vitko;
• Donbas separatists, such as former Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) head, Andriy Purgin, and Roman Lyagin, organiser of the DPR independence referendum;
• Oligarchs, such as Putin ally, Arkady Rotenberg, whose company was awarded a contract to build a bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland;
• the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk ‘people’s republics’; political parties participating in illegal Donbas local elections; pro-Russia militia fighting there;
• formerly Ukrainian-owned companies, such as the Sevastopol Commercial Seaport company, illegally transferred to Russian ownership.
Tier 3 – economic sanctions (adopted July/September 2014, renewed every six months, next due for renewal on 31 July 2018
Two weeks after the US announced economic sanctions on 16 July 2014, the EU adopted similar restrictions targeting the Russian financial, defence and energy sectors. Both the EU and the US reinforced economic sanctions on 12 September 2014:
• restricted Russian access to EU capital markets: EU nationals and companies are no longer allowed to lend money for a period exceeding 90 days (since September 2014: 30 days) to five major Russian state-owned banks (since September: also three oil companies and three arms manufacturers);
• arms embargo: a ban on arms trade with Russia; a ban on exports of dual-use (civilian/military) items to military clients (since September 2014: also nine companies producing a mix of civilian and military goods);
• restricted cooperation with the Russian energy sector: a ban on exports of innovative extractive technology (since September: also on services, such as drilling and testing) used by Russian companies to develop deep-water, Arctic and shale oil reserves; all other energy-related exports require special approval.