BRUSSELS, April 6. /TASS/. The European Union leadership says there is no issue in keeping sanctions against Russia in place amid the coronavirus pandemic because they do not hamper Russia’s capabilities to address the outbreak, spokesperson for the European Commission Peter Stano told a video briefing on Monday, answering a question about a letter sponsored by a number of MEPs, demanding that the commission do not "lift the sanctions on Russia under the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic."
According to Stano, sanctions "do not prevent Russia from tackling coronavirus outbreak."
"Yes, indeed, we have received this letter and the reply will be sent through the usual channels. Just to recall, the High Representative, Josep Borrell, issued a declaration last Friday on behalf of the EU, where it is stressed that sanctions should not impede the delivery of essential equipment and supplies which are necessary to fight the coronavirus and limit its spread worldwide," he added.
Stano points out that the sanctions were imposed following the events that took place in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. "This means that these sanctions do not prevent Russia from tackling the coronavirus outbreak," he underscored.
In 2014, the European Union imposed three packages of sanctions on Moscow over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The first package blacklists natural persons and companies that are no longer allowed to enter the EU and whose bank accounts in the EU are required to be frozen. The second set of restrictive measures introduces sectoral economic sanctions against a limited number of Russian state banks, as well as defense and oil enterprises, while the third package imposes a total ban on EU business to operate in Crimea, bans issuance of Schengen visas to all Russian citizens residing in Crimea as well as prohibits EU maritime travel companies and airlines from travelling to Crimea. Moreover, visa waiver negotiations and talks on a new cooperation agreement were suspended. The three sanction packages remain in place, the first two packages are prolonged every six months, while the third one is renewed annually, its next extension will be debated in June.
In response, Russia banned the import of a number of food products from the European Union, which the EU itself estimates helped to turn the country from an importer into an exporter of key agricultural products. Had this not happened, import of food from the EU to Russia would have become a serious and urgent issue amid the pandemic, shutdown of borders as well as numerous disturbed and broken trade and production chains.