EU Targets Ships 'Going Dark' to Evade Russian Sanctions

EU thinks there are some big sanctions loopholes that are helping Moscow refill its war chest
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2023 9:50 AM CDT
EU Looks to Close Loopholes in Russian Sanctions
An oil tanker is moored at the Sheskharis complex in Novorossiysk, Russia, on Oct. 11, 2022   (AP Photo, File)

Wars tend to bring innovations—and European Union officials say Russia has been finding innovative ways to dodge sanctions in the 14 months since it launched its war in Ukraine. Sources tell Bloomberg that EU leaders are working with the US and other allies on a fresh package of penalties that will focus on closing loopholes in existing sanctions in a bid to choke off Russia's economy and prevent Vladimir Putin from refilling his war chest. Quartz reports that the loopholes the EU is targeting include the practice of ships "going dark" by turning off tracking devices before illicit ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil in international waters.

In February, multiple EU member states warned the European Commission that Russia was circumventing sanctions to import Western technology for its defense industry, Le Monde reports. They said the tactics were "getting more numerous and more creative" and involved "the use of front companies and intermediaries in the circle of countries around Russia." The EU officials noted that EU exports to countries including Turkey, Belarus, and Kazakhstan hit record levels in 2022—as did exports from those countries to Russia.

The new sanctions plans will be unveiled at a Group of Seven leaders' summit in Japan later this month, Bloomberg reports. The countries are reportedly considering "flipping" the existing sanctions structure, with exports to Russia banned unless they are specifically exempted. The current sanctions have not gripped Russia's economy as tightly as expected. The country's economy shrank 2.1% in 2022, far less than predicted when sanctions were first imposed in February that year. The Bank of Russia predicted Friday that the country's economy will grow 2% this year. (More Russia sanctions stories.)

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