EU closes loophole allowing multimillion-euro arms sales to Russia


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has closed a loophole that allowed EU governments to export weapons value tens of hundreds of thousands of euros to Russia final 12 months alone regardless of an embargo which took impact in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea area.

EU international locations final 12 months offered to Russia weapons and ammunition value 39 million euros ($42.3 million), in accordance to the newest knowledge made obtainable by the EU Commission – up greater than 50% from 2020, when sales had been value 25 million euros, a quantity in step with earlier years.

The EU had banned the export of arms to Moscow in July 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, however a clause within the sanctions permitted sales underneath contracts signed earlier than August 2014.

Countries with massive defence industries, similar to France and Germany, had been among the many largest exporters.

The loophole has come underneath hearth from some EU governments because the begin of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which the Kremlin calls “a particular army operation”.

In a bid to weaken the Kremlin’s struggle efforts in Ukraine, the EU has imposed 5 rounds of sweeping sanctions banning exports to Russia of a big number of expertise that might be utilized by the defence business.

But EU governments failed to instantly agree to scrap the exemption on arms sales till final week, when the loophole was closed as a part of the fifth package deal of EU sanctions, EU diplomats and officers informed Reuters.

A authorized textual content revealed on April 8 within the EU official journal deletes that exemption.

The EU Commission didn’t point out the closure of the loophole in its public communication concerning the fifth package deal of sanctions.

A spokesperson for the Lithuanian diplomatic mission to the EU stated the exemption had been eradicated, however EU international locations shall be in a position to proceed shifting Russia-made weapons to Russia for repairs earlier than they’re returned to the EU.

The EU Commission, which is answerable for getting ready sanctions, didn’t suggest the modification on closing the loophole because it was not clear whether or not it had the unanimous political backing of the 27 EU states, diplomats stated.

But at a gathering final week, envoys agreed to amend the textual content after recent criticism from some governments, together with Poland and Lithuania, diplomats who attended the assembly stated.

($1 = 0.9217 euros)

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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