Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 02.04.2018
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Russia occupied Crimea and part of Donbas and still does. Ukraine and every other Western democratic country imposed economic sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for causing the worst international war in Europe since the Second World War.
Sanctions were supposed to impose an economic penalty on Russia, in lieu of military help for Ukraine which would actually stop Putin’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine. But appeasing Western governments and companies found ways to circumvent sanctions immediately, and it’s been “business as usual” with aggressor Russia without interruption.
Ukraine closed Crimean ports, but ships never stopped sailing. In 2017 alone, 161 vessels came to the “closed” ports of Ukrainian Crimea that are under temporary Russian administration. These vessels flew Russian flags and various African flags of convenience, but the captains of the ships hailed from Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, and Bulgaria. Greek companies break Ukrainian law and international sanctions by keeping the Kerch Strait ferries going, across the Ukraine-Russia frontier between Ukrainian Crimea and Russian Kuban.
The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation banned European airlines from flying to Crimea in April 2014. But Russian airlines violate this ban, and fly the same aircraft that they fly illegally to Ukraine (to Crimea) to airports in other countries. Europe’s Airbus and the US’s Boeing service the sanctions-busting aircraft – giving “aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Russia has racked up considerable fines because of its illegal flights to Ukrainian Crimea. Aggressor Russia owes Ukraine $190 million for its prohibited activity in Ukrainian airports and Ukrainian airspace. Ukraine has vowed that it will now seek redress in international courts. Attempts will be made to seize sanctions-busting Russian aircraft wherever they may land – and let the Russian airlines and the aircraft leasing companies and Airbus or Boeing sort out who has to pay Ukraine.
Many multinational corporations are eagerly helping aggressor Russia and sabotaging defender Ukraine. They bust sanctions by working with Russian affiliates, who then provide goods or services into Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea. It’s an adaption of a money-laundering scheme. Germany-based Siemens is the worst offender, having worked steadily since a month after Russia’s invasion to bring four turbines illegally into Crimea under Russian occupation. Following the notorious example of Siemens, MAN, Adidas, Puma, Metro Cash & Carry, Auchan, Volkswagen, DHL, Visa, and Mastercard are also among the companies collaborating with the regime of Putin’s puppet in Crimea, the gangster Sergey “The Goblin” Aksyonov.
Russia created a National System of Payment Cards to circumvent financial sanctions imposed for its aggression in Ukraine. Visa and MasterCard adopted this scheme without hesitation. Their credit fuels Putin’s War, and pays for the death and destruction Russia inflicts upon Europeans who live in Ukrainian Crimea and Ukrainian Donbas.
Sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine are a sick joke. There has been no “price to pay” for the Putin-Kremlin kleptocracy for its aggression against the largest country that lies wholly within Europe. But all it would take would be for the language of sanctions to turn into the action of sanctions. Seize the ships that illegally enter Ukrainian Crimean ports. Seize the aircraft that illegally land at Ukrainian Crimean airports. Do not do business with any Russian company that acts as if Ukrainian Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation. Do not extend credit to any Russian individual or entity that does not accept that Crimea is Ukraine. Ban Russia from the SWIFT international payment system. Freeze the assets of the Russian oligarchy in every country that respects the rule of law.
Crimea is Ukraine. Russia’s occupation of Crimea is illegal – so says Ukraine, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Criminal Court, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and all democratic countries. Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine is no joke. Sanctions against aggressor Russia should stop being a joke.