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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Liveblog Day 162

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
David Cameron Targets 'Londongrad' In New Sanctions

Londongrad -- a phrase which has been used a lot lately, describes the amount of Russian money which moves through the UK. Russian elites are educated in London, Russian oligarchs do business and vacation there, and UK businessmen or often hired by Russian officials and businesses to serve as lobbyists for various causes.

But it appears that David Cameron was not joking when he spoke out forcefully about the need for the EU to effectively challenge and sanction Russia over its continued support of separatists in Ukraine. The Telegraph is reporting that the new EU sanctions will make the City of London the new front-lines of the conflict as the sanctions prohibit investing in or holding equity in any Russian state owned financial institution (defined as the Russian state owning 50% or more).

"The EU measures go further than United States sanctions that target only two Russian banks, Gazprombank and VEB, to cover all Russia banks with more than 50 per cent public ownership.

The four largest Russian banks with state ownership of over 50 per cent are Sberbank, VTB, the Russian Agriculture Bank and VEB. The first two are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

"The ban will prohibit anyone in the EU from investing in debt, equity and similar financial instruments with a maturity higher than 90 days, issued by state-owned Russian financial institutions anywhere in the world," said an EU official."

However, it seems that France and Germany were spared some pain as the delivery of the first Mistral amphibious assault ship and German technology sectors were left out of further sanctions.

"In mark of lingering doubts and divisions, the EU has pulled back from other sanction measures in order to protect Germany's high-technology manufacturers and the defence industry in France."

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
US Sanctions Nearly Every State-Owned Russian Bank - But Not The Big One
The United States has released their list of sanctioned Russian banks and businesses:

A closer look at the sanctions list also reveals that United Shipbuilding Corporation is also on the sanctions list. RFE/RL reports:

United Shipbuilding Corporation of St. Petersburg, Russia, which is state-owned, was added to a list of entities with which U.S. individuals are prohibited from doing any business.

The European Union announced earlier on July 29 that it was adding eight individuals and three entities to a list of 87 individuals and 20 entities.

President Obama is now speaking at the White House. Here are the key points:

In response to the MH17 tragedy, the US is doing "everything in our power" to investigate the incident and stop the crisis in Ukraine, but "Russian-backed separatists" have undermined those efforts.

"Meanwhile, Russia continues to support the separatists, and encourage them, and train them, and arm them." More Russian military equipment is on the way to the border, much of which has already been transported to the separatists, according to President Obama, who spoke about the GRAD rocket attacks across the border.

Obama went on to say that the US is trying to coordinate with allies and partners to ensure a unified response to this crisis and Russia's actions which perpetuate it.

"We have also made it clear that if Russia continues on its path then the consequences for Russia will continue to grow." The new sanctions will target energy, arms, and finance. Russia will now also be unable to finance programs through the EU and the US.

Obama then spoke about how Russia's actions have made "a weak Russian economy even weaker." These new sanctions ratchet up the pressure, "including on the cronies and companies" which are responsible for interfering in Ukraine.

"This is a choice that Russia and President Putin have made."

Then Obama was asked if this was a new Cold War.

"No, this is not a new Cold War, this is a specific issue" where Russia has chosen isolation rather than engagement with a country which could be a strong partner, Ukraine.

Obama was also asked whether sanctions will stop Putin. He maintained that Ukraine is better armed and capable of fighting separatists, but that the civilian death toll will escalate in eastern Ukraine as long as Russia is interfering. Obama also mentioned that these new sanctions were a recognition of the "waning patience" Europe has with the Putin's empty words.

But it is up to Putin to see that other options are pursued. This is about making sure Putin pays the price when he makes bad choices.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Sanctions Are Coming, But Are They Watered Down?
First, let's take a very brief look at how much influence Europe really has when it comes to the Russian economy (spoiler - a lot):

The Washington Post reports:

Germany is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies, with Russia providing up to a third of the gas used in Germany. The other European heavyweights also have strong economic ties to Moscow, with Britain relying on Russian money to help fuel its thriving banking sector, and France selling warships to Russia to buoy its flagging defense industry.

Analysts expect that the new European sanctions would include measures targeting nearly $10 billion worth of bonds issued in Europe by Russian state-owned banks, an arms embargo, and restrictions on dual-use technology and energy industry equipment.

The impact of the much-anticipated sanctions was already rippling across Europe on Tuesday, with companies rushing to pull back on their dealings with Russian partners. In London, the effect was being felt most acutely among financial firms, which are trying to limit their exposure to any segment of the Russian economy that might be caught up in the new measures.

Now that Europe and the United states have announced a new wave of sanctions, we notice that preliminary reports on the new measures infers that they are much heavier-handed than previous rounds of sanctions:

The package "will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, (and) impose an embargo on trade in arms," said a statement from the European Union.

The EU also said new penalties would "establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama administration's new sanctions would closely track those of the EU.

The Guardian calls today's new sanctions "sweeping":

The punitive measures, the most extensive EU sanctions imposed on Russia since the cold war, were agreed by ambassadors from the 28 member states after a seven-hour debate. They decided that Moscow had not fulfilled the conditions laid down by foreign ministers last week, to stop the supply of arms to the rebels and provide full cooperation in the investigation into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17...

According to an EU official, the most important measure agreed was to deny Russian state-owned banks access to European capital markets. Under the agreed sanctions, Europeans will not be permitted to buy debt, equity or other financial instruments with a maturity higher than 90 days in Russian state-owned banks or their subsidiaries. Brokering or other services linked to any such transactions will also banned.

The problem? It looks like key exceptions have been built into the sanctions. Again, The Guardian reports:

Any trade in arms and "related material" with Russia, both import and export, will be banned but the embargo will only apply to future contracts, and therefore would not affect the €1.2bn sale of two French Mistral helicopter carrier ships already agreed. Russia imports relatively few arms from the EU, but sells Europe weapons worth more than €3bn.

Certain technology related to the energy industry will require specific prior authorisation, and export permits will not be given for exploration or production equipment for deep-water or arctic drilling, or for shale oil projects in Russia.

The measures do not affect the actual trade of oil, gas or other commodities.

Perhaps these are the strongest sanctions Europe could agree to pass, but it remains to be seen how Russia (and Russia's markets) will react.

On that note, though the markets closed long before this new round of sanctions was announced, the Russian MICEX index closed up today for the first time in three days with a gain of .60%.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Military Says Debaltsevo Cleared of Separatists

Novosti Donbassa reports that the press centre for the Ukrainian government's Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) has announced that the town of Debaltsevo, which Ukrainian forces entered on Sunday (July 27), is now cleared of separatist fighters.

The ATO press centre said (translated by The Interpreter):

"Today, thanks to a successful military operation, the settlement of Debaltsevo in the Donetsk region has been liberated by ATO forces."

The town is a strategic rail hub and lies on the main supply route for weapons and vehicles coming from Russia to Donetsk.


Having pushed through the town on Sunday, Ukrainian forces were able to move south on Shakhtersk and Torez, where they have engaged separatists in the area, and reportedly have taken key positions. 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Separatists Threaten To Ban OSCE Monitors From MH17 Site

Reuters report:

Rebels in east Ukraine accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday of "serving the interests of the United States and Ukraine" and said they could ban the security and rights group from working at the crash site of a Malaysian airliner.

The self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" also said in an emailed statement it was going to halt cooperation with the OSCE, until now the main body tasked with negotiating access to the crash site for international experts.