Mar 2, 2022 - World

Zelensky adviser calls on West to impose 3 more sets of Russia sanctions

Ukraine's presidential advisor Andriy Yermak after a press briefing in Paris in January 2022.

Ukraine's presidential advisor Andriy Yermak after a press briefing in Paris in January 2022. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images

The West must "show Russia — in painful terms — the mistake it has made" by invading Ukraine by imposing even stricter sanctions on Moscow, Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, wrote in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday.

Why it matters: Numerous countries raised sanctions on Russian banks, assets and some oligarchs in response to the invasion. But Yermak said more needs to be done, specifically calling for a full embargo on Russian oil exports, cutting all of its banks from SWIFT and financial restrictions on all of Moscow's elite.

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that G7 leaders plan to announce additional sanctions, including freezing and seizing assets of Russian elites and excluding more Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system, according to Reuters.

What they're saying: "I am writing this appeal from a bunker in the capital, with President Volodymyr Zelensky by my side," Yermak wrote. "Despite the constant barrage of Russian fire, we stand firm and united in our resolve to defeat the invaders. We will fight to the last breath to protect our country."

  • "We are thankful to our American and European friends, to democracies worldwide including Australia and Japan, for their quick decisions to help us, for their sanctions against the Russian economy, for the armaments and equipment to deter the aggressor," he added.
  • "But it’s not enough. We need more — and, please, stop telling us military aid is on the way. Nothing less than our freedom — and yours — is at stake."
  • "Every Russian bank — not just a select few — must be cut off from the SWIFT banking system, and every Russian oligarch must be sanctioned. We are also calling for a full embargo on Russian oil and all Russian exports to the United States and Europe."

The big picture: Yermak asked for more antitank and antiaircraft weapons and other ammunitions and the enforcement of a no-fly zone over the country.

  • Zelensky recently urged President Biden to impose a no-fly zone over parts of the country, which would go against Biden's pledge to not send U.S. troops to directly counter Russia in Ukraine and could bring NATO into direct conflict with Russian forces.
  • Yermak said he understands that it would be "a serious escalation in the war," but added Kyiv believes "that Russia won’t stop at just Ukraine, which would potentially drag NATO into this conflict anyway."

Yes, but: Russia has prepared for retaliatory sanctions from Western sanctions for several years, and it blunt their impact by deepening its growing alignment with China, which has not condemned Russia's invasion and has criticized the imposition of sanctions.

  • Sanctions on Russia's oil and gas exports would also likely cause energy costs to spiral even higher, which could set off further economic turmoil in Europe that could strain the unity that the West has shown in its stance toward Russia so far.
  • Yermak acknowledged that sanctioning Russia's energy exports would "not be without cost to the world economy" but said "the alternative is far worse."

Bottom line: "But make no mistake: Other autocrats are watching, taking lessons. They can create a coalition of bad will — just look at how once-peaceful Belarus is now serving as a staging ground for Russian troops," Yermak warned.

  • He said that the "war is not just about Ukraine. The Kremlin wants to create a new Russian empire."

Go deeper: The latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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