New EU blacklist names Russians abducting Ukrainian children
Crimes committed by Russians you've never heard of feature on a new EU blacklist designed to mark one year of war.
It names three Russian politicians — Lenara Ivanova, Vyacheslav Dukhin, and Tatiana Moskalkova — to face a visa-ban and asset-freeze for helping to organise mass abductions of Ukrainian children from occupied lands.
Ivanova, a regional deputy prime minister, was "one of the key persons involved in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia and their subsequent illegal adoption by Russian families," the EU foreign service said in a draft blacklist dated 14 February and seen by EUobserver.
Dukhin, a Moscow-area official, was "facilitating the illegal adoption of Ukrainian children into families living in his region and has sought to arrange Russian citizenship for these illegally deported Ukrainian children," it said.
And Moskalkova, Russia's human-rights commissioner, has gone on TV to deny the existence of "filtration camps" in Russian-occupied Ukraine, where "Russia's forces and proxies have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including thousands of children," the EU added.
The other 59 individuals on the new list were deputy ministers, MPs, senators, prosecutors, military commanders, and propagandists, whose names are also known only to Russia experts in EU foreign ministries.
On the military side, the EU singled out Alexey Avdeev, a Russian major-general, for having been in areas "where the Russian army committed atrocities against civilians".
Mikhail Teplinskiy, an airborne forces chief, was "at the site of the shooting of the residents of Bucha" in Ukraine in 2022, it said.
And Sergey Karakaev, a colonel general, was "responsible for the strategic shelling of civilian infrastructures" such as heating and water supplies.
The propagandists include Yevgeny Primakov, the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, which fans pro-war feeling among Russian expatriates in Europe.
They also include two-deputy heads of Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and the bosses of the All-Russia People's Front, a fund-raising group which owns trademark rights to the 'Z' symbol used to show war support.
The blacklist is accompanied by 'evidence packages' designed to stand up to a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice, making those named more likely to end up in any post-war tribunals.
It comes on top of 1,412 Russians already listed by the EU.
The existing sanctions reference acts of "torture" on 22 pages and "rape" on 23 pages of their 456-page long chronicle of accusations.
And for her part, US vice-president Kamala Harris told last weekend's Munich Security Conference in Germany that Russia's conduct of the war "formally" met the UN definition of "crimes against humanity", putting it on moral par with genocides such as those in former Yugoslavia or in Rwanda.
The new blacklist also adds 28 entities to face an EU asset freeze and business ban.
This includes Russia's National Wealth Fund, three banks (Alfa-Bank, Rosbank, and Tinkoff bank), two media holding firms (Patriot Media Group and Rossiya Segodnya), and two insurance companies (Ingosstrakh Insurance Company and RNRC).
It also names the All-Russia People's Front itself and several arms manufacturers, as well as a London-based firm, Pawell Shipping, responsible for "illegal transportation of stolen Ukrainian grain".
EU foreign ministers are discussing the list in Brussels on Monday (20 February) prior to its adoption before Friday — the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.
The blacklist is part of a wider 10th package of sanctions, which also cover an embargo on €11bn a year of high-tech EU exports and a broadcast ban on the RT Arabic and Sputnik Arabic propaganda outlets.
Details could change, with some eastern EU countries still pushing to list Russia's top nuclear firm, Rosatom, and its chief, Aleksey Likachov, on the legal grounds Rosatom has taken over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in occupied Ukraine, EU diplomats say.
Hungary, where Rosatom is building two reactors, is against this.
But even if Rosatom was added, the 10th package is likely to disappoint Ukrainians, given the horrors of the war and the symbolic pregnancy of the anniversary.
Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Ukraine's former EU ambassador, for one, said Europe should also ban Russian diamonds, curb trade in liquified gas, and cut off all Russian banks from the Swift international payments grid.
It should even push for "closing of the Suez Canal for Russian deliveries", he told EUobserver from Kyiv.
There are few regime VIPs left to blacklist.
But some members of Russian president Vladimir Putin's family are still free to travel and invest in EU countries.
These include Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, who has an EU real-estate empire, and his god-daughter, Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian politician who calls Ukrainians "Nazis" on social media, one EU diplomat said.
The EU could also list Russian-elite children, who live gilded lives in Europe, on legal grounds they "benefit directly" from their "close connection" with Kremlin cronies, the diplomat added.
He gave as an example Daniil Solovyov, a 21-year London-based fashion model, whose father, Vladimir Solovyov, is a top TV anchor calling for Russia to nuke EU cities.
Russia's Patriarch Kirill and Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin are noisy advocates of war, but Hungary has vetoed listing religious personalities.
Russian academics Dmitry Trenin and Andrey Kortunov have also sided with Putin, a second EU diplomat said, even though they were considered "liberals" in the West. "They should be blacklisted because this makes them all the more dangerous," he said.
The EU has so far sanctioned some 75 Russian oligarchs and their relatives.
But there are 200 names on Forbes magazine's list of Russia's richest businessmen.
And "every oligarch is holding money for Putin", said Bill Browder, a London-based hedge-fund manager and sanctions campaigner.
Vladimir Lisin, valued by Forbes at $23.3bn (€21.8bn), who owns the NLMK steel plant, for instance, openly supplies Russia's Uralvagonzavod tank-manufacturing factory, but is not on any EU list.
Leonid Mikhelson ($22bn), who owns the Novatek gas firm, is name-checked in existing EU sanctions documents as one of the "oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin", but isn't listed per se.
According to EU doctrine, sanctions are meant to target regimes instead of ordinary people.
But the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian activist, has compiled a rolling list of now 6,968 "war enablers" it wants the West to lock out.
It includes regional journalists, athletes, and bloggers from across Russian society.
Some 500 Russian writers also signed a Z-stamped letter backing the war last year.
Another 150 cultural notables signed a declaration urging Putin to "denazify Ukraine".
And over 100 university rectors called for "denationalisation of Ukraine".
Asked by EUobserver if such people should be held accountable too or if they acted under duress, Anton Shekhovtsov, a Russia expert who is director of the Centre for Democratic Integrity, an NGO in Vienna, said: "Nobody actually forced them to do it".
"Conformism is important. The Russian population is morally degraded," Shekhovtsov said.
By ANDREW RETTMAN / EUobserver