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European Council approves law introducing criminal penalties for sanctions violations amid Russia’s weapons trade

The new law aims to strengthen enforcement measures against entities involved in circumventing restrictions.
The European Council illuminated with the Ukrainian flag on Europe Day in Brussels in 2022. Source: The European Union.
European Council approves law introducing criminal penalties for sanctions violations amid Russia’s weapons trade

The European Council has announced, in a statement, that it has adopted a law covering EU-wide rules for the prosecution of violation or circumvention of EU sanctions in member states.

Since the onset of Russia’s war on Ukraine in 2022, the EU has implemented 13 packages of individual and sectoral economic sanctions against the aggressor country. Those measures aim to reduce the Kremlin’s ability to finance its “war machine.”

The 13th package of sanctions targeted 106 individuals and 88 legal entities responsible for undermining or threatening Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence. It also includes measures to prevent Russia from circumventing EU sanctions through third countries or companies. According to reports, the EU is working on the 14th package of sanctions, which could be adopted as early as this spring.

Currently, the EU’s sanctions in response to Russia’s military aggression encompass 1,706 individuals and 419 entities. Those measures include asset freezes and travel bans within the EU, as per UkrInform.

Despite the bloc’s efforts, Russia still finds ways to import parts for its equipment, missiles, and drones. Therefore, the EU strives to move forward and close the loopholes through which Russia continues to violate sanctions.

“Today, the Council adopted a law covering EU-wide minimum rules for the prosecution of violation or circumvention of EU sanctions in member states.

Certain actions will now be considered criminal offenses in all member states, for example, helping to bypass a travel ban, trading in sanctioned goods, or performing prohibited financial activities. Inciting, aiding, and abetting these offenses can also be penalized,” said the European Council.

Under the new law, member states must ensure that violating EU sanctions is punishable by effective and proportionate criminal penalties, which vary depending on the offense. At the same time, the EU Council said that intentional violation of sanctions “must give rise to a prison sentence as the maximum penalty.” Those who have violated EU restrictive measures may additionally be fined.

Legal entities, including companies, can also be brought to justice when a person with a leading position in the organization commits a crime. In those cases, sanctions may include the disqualification of business activities and the withdrawal of permits and authorizations to pursue economic activities.

The EU Council added that the law would enter into force on the twentieth day following publication in the EU official journal. Member states will have 12 months to incorporate the directive’s provisions into national legislation.

To prevent the Kremlin from waging the war on Ukraine, several countries have also imposed economic restrictions on Russia. For instance, the US and Japan.

In April 2024, the Japanese Ministry of Trade said new sanctions from the country would target the supply of 164 types of goods that could aid Russia’s industrial and oil and gas sectors.

Japan imposes export controls on Russia, targeting industrial and oil, gas sectors

Among them were oil and gas pipelines, motor oils, nitrocellulose, lithium-ion batteries, woodworking equipment, power tools, grinding machines, precious metals, plastics and plastic products, woodworking equipment, steel products, non-ferrous metal products, optical equipment and photographic equipment, inorganic chemicals, fire boats, yachts, canoes, kayaks, light boats, crane vessels, production, and drilling platforms.

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