The US and its G7 partners imposed further sanctions on Russia’s “war machine” on Friday, focusing on Moscow’s rich diamond trade and other firms tied to the invasion of Ukraine.
Leaders of the Group of Seven affluent democracies are meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, with Russia’s $4-5 billion yearly diamond trade in the spotlight.
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine 15 months ago triggered a wave of sanctions that pushed his country into a slump and depleted the Kremlin’s war chest.
The G7 is now considering tightening the clamps even more, reinforcing current sanctions, closing loopholes, and subjecting additional Russian enterprises and their international partners to severe measures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address the summit via videolink over the weekend, with hosts Japan dismissing suggestions that he would make a last-minute, in-person presence.
Early Friday, a senior US administration official announced that 70 more entities from Russia and “other countries” would be added to a US blacklist.
“And there will be upwards of 300 new sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft,” the official said.
As the G7 weighs how to collectively choke Russia’s trade in diamonds — including high-tech methods of tracing — Britain announced its own “ban on Russian diamonds”.
London said it was also targeting imports of aluminium, copper and nickel.
“As today’s sanctions announcements demonstrate, the G7 remains unified in the face of the threat from Russia and steadfast in our support for Ukraine,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
For the time being, the G7 is unlikely to impose an outright ban on Russian diamonds. However, officials believe that the summit will signify a determination to act.
The Russian economy shrank by 2.1 percent in 2022, a pattern that has continued this year.
However, Moscow has rapidly responded, instituting rigorous capital restrictions, redirecting commerce to allies such as China, and apparently copying evasion techniques from sanctioned countries such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts a 0.7 percent GDP recovery in 2023.
The G7 leaders will also use the summit to court invited leaders from India and Brazil, two regional powers that have been hesitant to criticize Moscow or China in the past.