EU finalises diamonds export ban in Russia sanctions package; Black Sea corridor chalks up 100th ship departure

EU finalises diamonds export ban in Russia sanctions package; Black Sea corridor chalks up 100th ship departure
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell addresses the press prior to the EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on 13 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Olivier Matthys)

The European Union was finalising a 12th package of sanctions against Russia that includes an export ban on diamonds, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, told reporters after the bloc’s foreign ministers met in Brussels. The package also features measures to fight the circumvention of sanctions, he said.

Hungary rejected demands from EU states to unblock €500-million of the bloc’s military assistance for Ukraine, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters. Hungary wants Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency to “guarantee” that no Hungarian company will ever be put on its list of international war sponsors before unblocking the latest tranche, he said.

The 100th ship departed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports via the so-called humanitarian corridor, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on social media platform X. Ukraine managed to deliver 3.7 million tonnes of food and other goods via the corridor, which was launched after Russia pulled out of a UN- and Turkey-brokered grain deal in July.

Latest developments

US enquires about 100 tankers in Russia oil cap violations probe

The US Treasury Department sent notices to ship management companies about more than 100 vessels it suspects may have violated the price cap on Russian oil imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, a person familiar with the matter said.

The notices went to companies in about a dozen countries, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private communications. The Treasury recently imposed its first sanctions on companies accused of violating the price cap, and the latest notices suggest it may begin to hold companies to account more often.

A Treasury spokesperson said the department didn’t confirm or comment on investigations or enforcement actions but was committed to enforcing the cap. The news was first reported by Reuters. The notices generally ask companies to attest that they bought oil below the cap or risk facing penalties.

Read more: US imposes first sanctions over Russia oil cap as impact fades

The Group of 7 imposed a $60-a-barrel cap on crude purchases in December and other thresholds for refined fuels in February. The measures require shipowners to get attestations from traders that the oil didn’t breach the limit. If it did, they’re not allowed to provide services.

But oil is now trading well above the price cap and Russia has built up a large shadow fleet of tankers while shifting its exports to countries such as India.

Russia’s flagship crude price slides towards $60 G7 cap

The drop in oil prices has sent the value of Russia’s flagship Urals crude grade back into the $60 range.

Urals crude was assessed as low as $66.19 at the port of Primorsk in the Baltic Sea last week, according to Argus Media. That was the lowest since 25 July, just days after the grade broke through the Group-of-Seven price cap of $60. Brent crude futures have retreated in recent weeks on concerns about global consumption.

Since late last year, the US and the Group of Seven have imposed a cap on the price of Russia’s crude exports that prevents access to services like shipping and insurance if a cargo trades above $60. The policy came under fire over the summer when all of Russia’s crude was assessed by Argus above that level for the first time.

In recent weeks, both the UK and US have carried out some of their first enforcement actions around the policy. The US sanctioned two vessels, one owned by a Turkish company, for carrying cargoes above the cap while using Western services. Last week, the UK sanctioned Paramount Energy & Commodities for helping Russia avoid the cap. DM


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