Monday morning is a new wave of mass attacks in Ukraine. According to the Air Force of Ukraine, more than fifty missiles were fired against energy installations in the country, and as a result, electricity was cut off in all areas. Faced with this shutdown strategy, Kyiv implemented a program to limit electricity consumption. He continues his attacks in the south and northeast. For Ukrainian presidential adviser Vladislav Vlasiuk, his country’s response also includes imposing new international sanctions on Moscow, as well as expelling it from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), an organization that fights money laundering. In JDD, he explains the interest of such an event.
You call for increased sanctions against Russia. Does this mean that what is already being taken is not effective enough?
No, I would never say that. They are effective and we measure their impact. Germany’s trade with Russia has decreased by 30-40% both in import and export. The industrial sector in Russia is sluggish. The income of Russians has decreased by more than 30%. Examples can also be multiplied.
So why is more response required in this case?
To answer, I will use the metaphor of Michael McFaul, the former American ambassador to Moscow, who leads the group of experts on sanctions against Russia, of which I am a member. He says that if the car is parked illegally, then you have to fine it every day until it is moved. It is the same situation with Russia. As long as he continues his illegal aggression against Ukraine, he must be punished a little more every day. Now you need to know in which area you will apply these measures. For example, sanctions were imposed on the Russian steel sector. However, exports of some materials to the European Union have nevertheless increased.
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How do you explain it?
Because some sanctions are difficult. There are exceptions for certain steel products or extensions to the entry into force of certain measures. Same with gold. The embargo imposed initially had major consequences, and there was a sharp drop in Russian revenue from it. Then the Russians began to diversify into gold-based products or went to third countries for export. And the incomes increased again.
What about the diamond trade?
There was talk of it being included in the European Union’s seventh sanctions package, but Belgium opposed it and it was scrapped.
This week, Putin argued that the peak of the troubles had passed and that what was happening was ultimately good for the Russian economy. Lies?
Of course he is lying. These are nonsense. A number of indicators show that all sectors of the economy are facing major problems. Putin lies like he lies about martial law. If you remember, he said that the special operation went according to plan and that Russia did not suffer huge losses. A few days later, he announced the mobilization of 300,000 men.
Can Russia bypass the sanctions? If so, which countries help?
Yes, but I prefer not to name some countries directly. We can do that in the next few days. And then, there’s always no avoiding it. Sometimes the scope of the sanctions is not broad enough, which leaves room for Russia to fall, as with gold. Therefore, we must ensure that these loopholes are closed by imposing more sanctions.
Putin lies like he lies about martial law
Some leaders or political movements in Europe believe that the sanctions hurt Europeans more than Russians. How do you react to this?
First of all, in my opinion, there is no evidence to support such claims. These are just replicas of Russian propaganda claiming that poor Europeans are starving and freezing because of the sanctions. This is nonsense! Of course, I do not deny that some countries may face certain economic difficulties. But what we are facing here in Ukraine goes far beyond money issues. For us, every day is a matter of life and death. Europeans should ask themselves: if they are ready to support certain values, then they should continue sanctions against Russia, provide us with weapons.
You are advocating the removal of Russia from the anti-money laundering Gaffi group. How will this help Ukraine?
Gafi is a great organization both politically and technically. Russia is still very active there, which makes it very difficult for us to achieve our goals. We have two options: expel him from the organization and blacklist him, as with Syria, North Korea or Iran.
What will be the consequences for Moscow?
An exception would be a real signal that Russia is no longer welcome in one of the most respected international organizations. After that, it can no longer influence projects designed to fight terrorism or money laundering. As for the blacklist, it would make any trade with Russia almost impossible. This last goal is certainly very ambitious. On the other hand, an exception can be achieved. There are still a few countries that oppose it, China, Brazil and South Africa. But if we continue to provide evidence that Russia violated the FATF rules, it will be possible to rule it out at the next session in February.
Do you need unanimity for this?
The rule is not clear. But if one or two countries oppose it, it will be possible to achieve it.
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How will this exception change the situation in the military field?
At first glance, there is no obvious connection between the two subjects. But any initiative that could lead to more sanctions is justified. Take the example of the Polish Parliament, which this week recognized Russia as a terrorist regime. Does it change the course of the war? Nope. However, this may prompt some countries to be more aggressive or faster in their sanctions. And it is extremely important to act quickly. We’re seeing that now with these Iranian drone strikes that the Russians are using today. We meet new ones every day. We will have to face these attacks until the international community stops the Russian supply of Iranian bombs. Today, Ukrainians are without electricity for several hours a day, and it will only get worse if nothing is done.
Do you think your country can withstand these long-term impacts on civil infrastructure, especially power plants?
Ukraine is a large country with thousands of vulnerable sites, including energy facilities. This is an opportunity and a disadvantage. An advantage, because it is very difficult to destroy them all, and a disadvantage, because it is difficult to protect them all. Today, 30-40% of these energy structures are affected. But with the help of our allies, we are protecting our skies more and more effectively. And then if you ask Ukrainians to choose between living without electricity or Russian rule, they will all answer you: too bad for electricity, we don’t want Russians here.