Could the EU backtrack on personal sanctions against some Russians?


The European Union is in talks about eradicating sanctions on some 40 Russians. The people have been sanctioned on the idea of their alleged involvement in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, however in accordance with sources cited Bloomberg, the European Council’s authorized service has stated that among the penalties have been imposed on weak grounds.

Other than the well-known oligarchs who’re intently tied to President Vladimir Putin, a number of prime executives related to Russia’s so-called “new economic system” are amongst those that are believed to be contesting their designation.

Dmitry Konov, Tigran Khudaverdyan and Alexander Shulgin – former executives of Sibur, Yandex and Ozon, respectively – are largely considered by the worldwide markets as comparatively Western-minded technocrats, albeit with ties to Putin’s vertical of energy, who’ve turn out to be collateral harm within the sanctions battle.

Yandex, which is commonly described as Russia’s reply to Google, began off as a search engine in 1997. It has since expanded into completely different areas and dabbles in all the things from ride-hailing to e-groceries.

Khudaverdyan’s sanctions triggered some consternation within the worldwide enterprise neighborhood on account of his public criticism of the battle, although he has but to sentence the actions of the Russian army or Putin, himself. A number of weeks after Russian troops launched their bloody invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Khudaverdyan wrote a vaguely common touch upon Fb, stating: “What is occurring is insufferable. Warfare is monstrous.”

Khudaverdyan later stepped down after the EU introduced that he had been included in its checklist of sanctions.

John Boynton, the American chair of Yandex’s board issued a press release saying the corporate was “shocked and shocked” by Khudaverdyan’s designation.

Dmitry Konov, the previous CEO of petrochemicals producer Sibur, can be believed to be contesting the sanctions in opposition to him. Brussels dominated that Sibur, beneath Konov, has offered income to the Russian authorities, a few of which has been used to fund Moscow’s army; the identical declare levelled in opposition to Khudaverdyan.

Konov, nonetheless, continues to insist that Sibur’s tax contribution has nothing to do with the battle in Ukraine. “We’re a non-public firm and the arguments […] that the corporate supplies a considerable supply of earnings to the federal government answerable for the destabilization of Ukraine are usually not legitimate,” he informed Agence France Presse, insisting that almost all of his taxes have been paid on the regional and never federal degree.

Konov has tried to level out that he has shut ties with Europe, saying he was closely influenced by European administration practices after attending college in Switzerland.

Dmitry Konov and Vladimir Putin

Certainly, it’s true that Konov has a deep footprint in worldwide circles. He’s served as a governor of the World Financial Discussion board’s Committee for Chemistry and Superior Supplies since 2016 and was named a Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy in 2020 for advancing Russian-Italian enterprise ties.

Alexander Shulgin, the previous CEO of e-commerce firm Ozon, can be disputing sanctions. The EU cites his attendance at a gathering of enterprise leaders within the Kremlin on the day that the battle began as proof that Shulgin and the opposite CEOs current have been members of “the closest circle” of Putin, in accordance with the Monetary Occasions.

However attendees of the assembly argue that it was scheduled months upfront and that their presence was not an endorsement of the day’s occasions. Certainly, some have hinted that their attendance on the assembly was “not non-compulsory”.

“We have been shocked and saddened by the information and the rationale for sanctioning Alexander Shulgin,” stated Elena Ivashentseva, the Chairperson of Ozon’s Board of Administrators in a press release. “Ozon has at all times pursued the best requirements of conducting enterprise with the objective to offer the very best providers to our shoppers and retailers, while creating most worth for our buyers,” she added.

The Icarus Impact

One frequent theme among the many executives who fell beneath sanctions is that of relative success in rising their companies. Below Shulgin, Ozon’s enterprise grew twentyfold in simply 4 years. After changing into CEO in 2017, he took Ozon to IPO on the Nasdaq trade, the place it raised a cool $1.2bn. It has now grown right into a vastly profitable firm, typically described as Russia’s reply to Amazon.

Yandex went public on NASDAQ in 2011 within the largest IPO of any web firm since Google in 2004. The corporate undertook a profitable company governance restructuring when Khudaverdyan turned deputy CEO in 2019, serving to it to keep away from a international possession ban and reconciling competing pressures from shareholders and regulators.

Equally, Sibur has grown from a minnow into an trade chief beneath Konov. When he joined the corporate in 2004, it was a post-Soviet industrial asset getting ready to chapter. By 2021, Sibur’s annual turnover had elevated by $12.9 billion.

The corollary to efficiently rising what you are promoting is rising your organization’s debt burden. It’s no coincidence that these notably profitable executives face sanctions. The European Council justifies the penalties in opposition to executives by mentioning that their firms contribute to the price range of the Russian Federation by way of tax revenues.

The people dealing with sanctions argue that the success of their firms shouldn’t be held in opposition to them and that a lot of their tax income is paid to native administrations, not the federal price range which funds the army.


The European Union has already sanctioned 1158 Russians and 98 Russian entities by way of seven far-reaching sanctions packages. The European Fee says that the sanctions are “hitting Russia the place it hurts,” but when the people in query win their instances, it could not be the primary time that sanctions have been overturned.

The EU’s most up-to-date spherical of sanctions has been described as a “upkeep and alignment” package deal – designed to tweak established sanctions to make them as efficient as attainable with out harming European pursuits or world meals and power safety.

Crucially, the EU’s seventh package deal additionally lifted a ban on the availability of some know-how and providers to Russia’s aviation sector. Brussels defined that sure technical help and know-how have been nonetheless “wanted to safeguard the technical industrial standard-setting work of the Worldwide Civil Aviation Group”.

The established ban on aviation applied sciences was endangering Russian planes by depriving them of wanted checks and refurbishments. By reversing the choice, the EU might be hoping to take care of security requirements and keep away from accountability for any accidents.

However the determination may also be welcomed by European aviation firms like Airbus, which can keep away from the potential reputational harm inflicted by incidents on plane which haven’t been serviced.

An Airbus A320-200 from Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot.

Related logic underpinned america’ U-turn on sanctions in opposition to Russia’s aluminium trade. In 2019, the Treasury Division reversed sanctions in opposition to the world’s second-largest aluminium producer, Rusal, on account of issues that the penalties would minimize off a vital supply of the steel.

The reversal was extensively considered as successful not only for Rusal, but additionally for world metals markets and American financial pursuits – with the corporate agreeing to company governance modifications and higher transparency in response to Washington’s issues.

Within the instances of each aviation providers and Rusal, the reversal of sanctions was thought-about to be essentially the most accountable possibility, and the events which enforced the sanctions recognised that their unintended penalties risked overshadowing their geopolitical leverage.

People sanctioned by the EU might be eager to reveal that their instances are comparable. Whereas lawmakers have tried their greatest to keep away from penalising firms which play a structurally important function in world provide chains, the executives may argue, they’ve drawn up new sanctions at document pace, and have inevitably implicated some firms which assist Europe as a lot as Russia.

Though the likes of Yandex, Sibur, and Ozon haven’t been sanctioned immediately, a truth which raises questions in regards to the determination to sanction their prime administration, the impact of sanctioning their executives remains to be detrimental. The reputational harm inflicted has meant that European firms are unwilling to do enterprise and have needed to discover different sources for comparable merchandise – whether or not polymers or software program.

The query that’s apparently now going by way of the minds of European determination makers might be how they will strike the proper steadiness between exerting intense political stress on the Kremlin whereas minimizing disruptions to European commerce and world provide chains.

The EU’s seventh package deal of sanctions will add as much as 48 new entities to the checklist of sanctioned Russians. The outcomes of ongoing court docket instances will present how rigorous the EU has been in vetting candidates for the checklist of designated individuals.

One factor is for certain: Europe has no intention of slowing the tempo any time quickly.

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