Fired up European official slams 'Ridiculous' Russian sanctions, urges different approach

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a press conference

A European official criticized the continent’s sanctions plan for Russia and urged his colleagues to do more ahead of a vote that supported “full” sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. 

Member of European Parliament (MEP) Guy Verhofstadt on Wednesday slammed the governing body’s “ridiculous” approach, which he said “doesn’t work” due to the fact Russia is run by an autocrat and the people have “no real” opinion. 

“That works with a democracy, with democrats, who have a public opinion, a real public opinion,” Verhofstadt said. “In Russia, there is no longer a real public opinion.” 

He argued that the newest slate hits only a small amount of trade, such as coal, which he claimed only makes up 3% of Russian exports to Europe. He also took aim at attempts to cut off financial access, saying that “half the financial institutions are still outside the ban.”

“All the rest will not work,” he said. “All the rest will prolong the war.” 

Verhofstadt’s plea seemingly reached his colleagues, as the parliament voted Thursday to support stronger, “full” sanctions against Russia, with 513 votes in favor versus 22 against and 19 abstentions. 

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    EU Parliament’s Guy Verhofstadt   speaks during the opening of the Conference on the Future of Europe, in Brussels, Belgium April 19, 2021.  (Francois Walschaerts/Pool via REUTERS)

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    Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University, daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is seen on screens as she takes part in a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 4, 2021.  (Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina)

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    China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo are pictured during a BRICS foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes ( )

The vote supported a full and “immediate” embargo on Russian “oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.” MEPs also urged all European leaders to exclude Russia from the G20 and other multilateral organizations, including Interpol, UNESCO and others. 

Western allies have attempted to improve their sanctions packages after Russia appeared to resist the initial measures. Initial panic following the implementation of sanctions weakened Russia’s economy as the ruble’s value plummeted. 

But Russia seemingly stabilized, thanks to strict limits from its Central Bank on currency exchange, withdrawals and hard-currency transfers that helped to rein in the wild fluctuations that initially spooked officials into shutting down trading on the Moscow Exchange for almost a month.

The U.S. announced fresh sanctions Wednesday that will hit Mariya Putina and Katerina Tinkonova, Putin’s two adult daughters, as well as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the wife and children of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and members of Russia’s Security Council, including former president and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The U.K. also announced a heavy raft of new sanctions, including an asset freeze for two major banks, a ban on British investment in Russia and a pledge to end dependency on Russian energy resources by yearend.

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