The ambiguities of Moscow sanctions
by Vladimir Rozanskij

They cause serious inconvenience to ordinary people in Russia, but do not bother the armed forces much because of the arms production that continues thanks to the Serniya, a smuggling network linked to the FSB security services. The poor controls on financial transactions. The business with Moscow that goes on even in the West.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The United States and the European Union have already approved and applied eleven sanctions packages against Russia, due to its aggression against Ukraine.

The declared aim is to deprive Putin of the means to continue the war, both financial and technological. Yet, the war shows no signs of stopping, and Russia unloads bombs and missiles produced in 2023 using American and European components into Ukraine, while European countries prohibit cars with Russian license plates from entering through their borders.

The sanctions cause serious inconvenience to ordinary people in Russia, but do not disturb the armed forces much in the production of weapons and the conduct of war.

The Russian economist Maksim Mironov has expressed his doubts in various interventions, including an in-depth analysis in the Financial Times. The problem he highlighted is the vast smuggling network set up by the Russians, the so-called Serniya, from which American companies in particular receive misleading information on the final destinations of various items sold, allowing military technologies, electronics and machinery to circulate.

These materials then arrive in Russia through various more or less direct routes, via Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong and others. Serniya has been linked by various sources to the FSB security services.

Other economists also contributed to Mironov's research, verifying the customs documentation of many countries, including on the sale of gas and oil at prices higher than those decided by sanctions, and on the particularly sensitive market of microchips.

The initiatives of many more or less masked Russian agents active in the countries that issued the sanctions were highlighted. In addition to Russian businessmen, long established in Germany, Great Britain, the United States and other places, there are members of the same services operating under various professional and residential specifications, such as FSB Colonel Vadim Konošenok, arrested in December last year on the border between Estonia and Russia while trying to transport microchips and electronic elements essential for the Russian artillery.

Western governments struggle to limit the commercial activities of many Russian representatives, especially in Europe, as they do not have adequate legislative and judicial tools to fight against the smuggling of these materials, which are not always included in the registers of sanctioned articles.

The US Ministry of Justice accused the Serniya participants of "highly secret purchases" in the interests of espionage organized by the FSB. Mironov himself has suffered threats and personal attacks in Buenos Aires, where he lives, which have also endangered the health of his wife Aleksandra Petra─Źkova by people shouting Stay away from Russia!.

As Mironov underlines, the real problem of sanctions is precisely the mechanisms for controlling their applications, which appear decidedly inadequate. There have been various meetings of politicians in Brussels and elsewhere, which have not produced sufficient results in this regard.

According to the economist "it is not enough to remove the use of Visa and Mastercard, which only punishes ordinary people, if all financial transactions, even the most elaborate ones, do not occur". In all of 2022, not a single court case has been completed over companies helping to circumvent sanctions.

For example, from the Russian port of Kozmino, near Nakhodka in the eastern region of Primorje, oil sales continued regularly at 73 dollars a barrel, instead of the 60 of the established ceiling, complete with insurance contracts by Western companies, for a quantity of 96% of that of the period before the war and sanctions.

In the publications of Mironov and others, several similar stories are reported, which make us reflect on who really intends to stop the war, or who instead prefers to continue doing business, both among the Russians and among their adversaries.


Photo: Flickr / Andrei Filippov