Since the start of the invasion, the EU has condemned in the strongest possible terms Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine and its attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and has called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian troops from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. It has pointed out that this war of aggression constitutes a blatant and flagrant violation of the UN Charter and of the fundamental principles of international law, and that the Russian Federation bears full responsibility for it. European Council President Charles Michel has also highlighted its repercussions on the world order, declaring on 1 March 2022: ‘It is not only Ukraine that is under attack. International law, rules-based international order, democracy and human dignity are also under attack. This is geopolitical terrorism, pure and simple.’ In addition, EU leaders have underlined that Russia, Belarus and all those responsible for war crimes and the other most serious crimes will be held to account for their actions in accordance with international law. The EU has also condemned Russia’s weaponisation of food in the war against Ukraine and the global food security crisis Russia has thereby triggered.

In March 2022, the EU adopted its Strategic compass for security and defence, acknowledging that Russia represented ‘a long-term and direct threat for European security’, thereby marking a major shift in EU-Russia’s relations since 2016.

In response to Russia’s invasion, the EU Member States swiftly adopted unprecedentedly tough sanctions in close cooperation with partners, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan. Since 24 February 2022, the EU has massively expanded the restrictive sectoral measures through 10 successive sanctions packages (up to April 2023) and has added a significant number of persons and entities to the sanctions list with the aim of further stepping up the pressure on Russia to end the war. The restrictive measures are intended to weaken Russia’s economic foundation, depriving it of essential technologies and markets and greatly reducing its capacity to wage war.

The rapid succession of 10 packages of EU sanctions, in what has already been labelled a ‘sanctions revolution’, has resulted in an unparalleled set of measures targeting the key sectors of the Russian economy and the country’s political elites. Each package has incrementally amended and broadened the scope of the sanctions regimes adopted from 2014 onwards, with the addition of a new regime banning imports of goods originating in the illegally annexed territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the EU.

In addition to the individual and economic sanctions, a number of subsequent diplomatic sanctions have been imposed, including the suspension of visa facilitation between the EU and Russia. Together with other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, the EU agreed to deny most-favored-nation treatment for Russian products and services on EU markets.

As of June 2023, the sanctions listings cover 1 473 individuals and 207 entities. The sanctioned individuals include the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, the 351 Members of the State Duma who endorsed the recognition of the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, high-ranking officials and military personnel, disinformation actors, those responsible for missile strikes against civilians, critical civilian infrastructure and for the kidnappings and subsequent illegal adoptions of Ukrainian children, and many others. The most recent individual sanctions also target persons with a key role in disinformation campaigns, members and supporters of the Wagner mercenary group and the group as an entity, the RIA FAN media group, as well as additional Iranian individuals involved in the supply of drones and components supporting Russia’s military.

EU Member States are currently discussing an 11th sanctions package which consists of widening the list of sanctioned individuals and imported products, as well as strengthening the fight against the circumvention of restrictions against Russia through imports to third countries or shadow entities. The individual sanctions (travel bans and asset freezes) target the people responsible for supporting, financing or implementing actions which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine or who benefit from these actions. In this context, after adding the violation of restrictive measures to the list of ‘EU crimes’, the Council agreed, on 9 June 2023, to introduce criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions and to make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish the breaking of sanction measures throughout the EU.

In retaliation for the EU and international sanctions imposed against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian Government published a list of ‘unfriendly’ foreign countries, which includes EU Member States, the UK, the US and other nations with a sanctions scheme against Russia. People from these nations are now subject to a progressively intricate system of retaliatory counter-sanctions, which affect various business and financial deals with a Russian connection. On 31 March 2022, the Russian authorities also decided to expand their ‘stop list’ significantly to encompass ‘the top leadership of the EU, a number of European commissioners and heads of EU military bodies, as well as the overwhelming majority of members of the European Parliament’. The Russian blacklist also includes high-level officials from some EU Member States’ governments and members of national parliaments, public and media figures.

The European Commission, while continuing to support the work of the International Criminal Court, indicated its readiness to work with the international community on setting up an ad hoc international tribunal or a specialized ‘hybrid’ tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crimes of aggression against Ukraine, perpetrated by the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation and its allies, in particular Belarus. As of 30 May 2023, Eurojust has been equipped with new powers to preserve, analyze and store evidence in order to facilitate the further investigation of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Ukraine. It is supporting the EU Joint Investigation Team set up with Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania and Ukraine.

The EU has condemned the systematic crackdown on NGOs, civil society organisations, human rights defenders and independent journalists both within and outside of Russia and continues to support Russians who have been speaking out or protesting against the war in Ukraine. On 5 June 2023 the Council sanctioned nine individuals for sentencing the Russian opposition politician, democracy activist and Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years’ imprisonment on the basis of politically motivated charges and false allegations. The EU has repeatedly reaffirmed its solidarity with Vladimir Kara-Murza, Alexei Navalny, Ilya Yashin and all Russians who have been prosecuted, imprisoned or intimidated for continuing to fight for human rights and speaking the truth about the regime’s illegal actions. 

While on 12 September 2022, the EU Member States fully suspended the 2007 EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement, the Commission has adopted guidelines to ensure this suspension does not negatively impact those in need of protection and people travelling to the EU for essential purposes, such as journalists, dissidents and civil society representatives.

Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions condemning the Russian aggression and the crimes perpetrated in its wake and expressed its staunch support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Over the last 15 months, the European Parliament has been a staunch supporter of string and effective EU sanctions against the Russian Federation, Belarus and allies of the Russian Federation as a key instrument. It has called for the confiscation of Russian assets frozen by the EU and for their use to address the reconstruction of Ukraine and compensation for the victims of Russia’s aggression. As regards the cooperation on sanctions across the world, the European Parliament has called on partners to align with these sanctions and is concerned that several third countries are collaborating with Russia to help it circumvent sanctions.

In its resolution of 23 November 2022, Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and as a state which uses means of terrorism, calling on the international community to be united in establishing accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. In several resolutions, it has called for President Putin, other Russian leaders and their Belarus allies to be held accountable for the crime of aggression they have committed. In this context, Parliament supports the creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine perpetrated by the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation and its allies, in particular Belarus. It also fully supports the ongoing investigation by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the situation in Ukraine and alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

In its recommendation of 8 June 2022 on ‘The EU’s Foreign, Security and Defence Policy after the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine’, Parliament urged the Vice-President of the Commission and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to pursue a holistic approach towards the Russian Federation and abandon any selective engagement with Moscow in the face of the atrocities and war crimes orchestrated by Russian political elites and committed by Russian troops, their proxies and mercenaries in Ukraine and elsewhere.

In its resolution of 16 February 2023, Parliament acknowledged that the Russian war of aggression has fundamentally changed the geopolitical situation in Europe, and therefore called for the EU to take bold, brave and comprehensive political, security and financial decisions and continue the international isolation of the Russian Federation.

At the same time, Parliament also believes that the Commission, the European External Action Service and the Member States should start reflecting on how to engage with Russia in the future and how to assist it with a successful transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic country that renounces revisionist and imperialistic policies, as stated in its resolution of 6 October 2022.

Before the war of aggression began, Parliament had already for years been condemning the Russian regime’s domestic repression and the increasing deterioration of the situation of human rights. When Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine, Parliament reiterated its strongest condemnation, in particular of the severe restrictions placed on the freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly and association, and the systematic crackdowns on civil society organizations, human rights defenders, the independent media, lawyers and the political opposition. Parliament has also deplored the extensively repressive Russian legislation, including on ‘foreign agents’, the changes to the Criminal Code and the Mass Media Law, which are used to engage in judicial harassment against dissenting voices in the country and abroad and to undermine the independent media. It has furthermore denounced the continuous and increasing censorship in Russia.

In particular, Parliament has repeatedly condemned Russia for the sentencing of Alexei Navalny who was awarded the European Parliament Sakharov Prize in 2021. As more activists were arrested and jailed, Parliament adopted two resolutions – on 7 April 2022 and 20 April 2023 respectively – condemning the increasing repression in Russia, in particular the cases of Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexei Navalny.

Parliament has expressed its solidarity and support for the people in Russia and Belarus protesting against Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and has demanded that Member States protect and grant asylum to Russians and Belarusians being persecuted for speaking out against the war, as well as Russian and Belarusian deserters and conscientious objectors. It has also called for the EU institutions to engage with Russian democratic leaders and civil society and supports the creation of a democracy hub for Russia, hosted by the European Parliament. Relations with Russian legislators were mostly developed in the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (PCC), an interparliamentary forum established by the EU-Russia PCA. Between 1997 and 2014, the PCC served as a stable platform for developing cooperation and dialogue between delegations from Parliament and the Russian Federal Assembly. Since March 2014, however, Parliament has discontinued these interparliamentary meetings in accordance with the EU restrictive measures taken in response to the Ukrainian crisis. Nevertheless, Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Russia PCC continues to meet regularly to analyze and hold debates on the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on the world and domestically, and in particular on the escalating crackdown on Russian civil society by the Russian authorities. In this context, the delegation holds exchanges of views with representatives of the Russian opposition, human rights defenders, civil society, non-governmental organizations and independent journalists, as well as with international experts.

Parliament has not been invited by Russia to observe elections since 1999.


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