Poland, Lithuania push for fresh package of EU sanctions on Russia, Belarus

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Poland and Lithuania want the European Union to impose restrictions on Russia’s nuclear sector as part of new sanctions against Moscow and Minsk for their aggression towards Ukraine, senior diplomats from the two EU countries said on Friday.

The EU officials will propose that the bloc bans more “Russian propaganda” media outlets and cuts more Russian banks from the SWIFT global messaging system, an anonymous source familiar with the issue told Reuters.

“It is more and more difficult to get the necessary unanimity in the EU for more sanctions. Nonetheless, we will propose an ambitious new package,” one of the incognito diplomats added.

The officials emphasised that the 10th EU package of sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine should be ready in time for the first anniversary of the invasion on February 24.

Belarus also in the crosshairs

The diplomats also stated that new sanctions would be proposed against Belarus, where they say loopholes allowed them to bypass European sanctions against Russia in trading goods such as furniture.

It chimes with an earlier announcement made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, that the bloc would impose sanctions against Belarus for aiding Russia in the war.

Poland strongly supports sanctions

“We welcome the announcements of the highest-ranking representatives of the European Commission to present proposals for the 10th package of sanctions, targeting Russia and Belarus,” Poland's Permanent Representative to the EU Andrzej Sadoś said.

He pointed out that the new sanctions are expected to cover more individuals and entities involved directly or indirectly in the Russian military effort. “Obviously, financial institutions, the SWIFT cutoff of banks that are still not covered by sanctions, dual-use products(...), the energy sector,” Sadoś stressed.

He added that certain actions on the Belarusian side by entities that actively support the Russian war shipment against Ukraine are being observed with great concern.

Ukraine also calling for more sanctions

Ukraine has also called on the EU to include Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom in its next round of sanctions, a move that has so far been blocked by Hungary, among others.

Hungary has four Russian-built nuclear reactors and plans to expand by two, and to be built by Rosatom.

They proposed that Rosatom and/or its leadership be blacklisted as a first step that should then lead to winding down cooperation in the EU with Russia’s nuclear industry.

The EU currently has some 1,300 individuals and 120 entities blacklisted over Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as economic sanctions in place that include trade, transport, energy, banking, media and defence sectors.