The West must crack down harder on Russia

In recent days, the UN Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on the political situation in the Ukraine.  In this discussion, Erik Møse, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, said “the conflict continued to inflict suffering on the civilian population, with more casualties, separation, displacement, and destruction of key infrastructure. This had affected millions of people, had worsened living conditions, and had hampered access to water, food, health, and education.”

According to him, “The Commission’s investigations had demonstrated that Russian authorities had committed a wide range of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Ukraine. Many of these amounted to war crimes.”    This report was issued as Russian forces continue to strike across the Ukraine, after Chinese President Xi Jiping deported from Moscow following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  According to various media reports, these strikes including the use of Iranian Shahed drones on Ukraine’s Kyiv region, which killed 9 people.

Since the conflict in the Ukraine began, over 8,000 people have been killed and at least 5,000 people have become internally displaced persons.   Many other Ukrainians were forced to flee their country with little more than the clothes on their backs.   This comes after there has been an arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin amid claims that Russia has been abducting Ukrainian children.  The Ukrainian government claims that more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have gone missing in the last year alone and that more than 70,000 Ukrainian children in total have been illegally transported to Russia.

Aside from that, Russia has been looting Ukraine’s cultural treasures and seizing them for themselves.   “In the final days of occupying Kherson, Russian forces loaded paintings, gold, silver, ancient Greek artifacts, religious icons, and historical documents onto trucks bound for Russian-controlled territories,” said Belkis Wille, crisis and conflict associate director at Human Rights Watch. “This systematic looting was an organized operation to rob Ukrainians of their national heritage and amounts to a war crime for which the pillagers should be held to account.”

Considering all of these facts, it is of pivotal importance that the West continue to sanction Russia and even crack down harder upon Putin and his government, as there simply is no other way to hold them accountable for their crimes against humanity in the Ukraine.   However, it will be much easier to hold Putin accountable if one knows who actually is still doing business with Russia despite its illegal and violent occupation of the Ukraine.

Fortunately, Bloomberg News published the top six companies who continue to purchase Russian oil despite the imposition of sanctions by the West.  These include the Hong Kong based Noad Axis Ltd., which purchased 521,000 barrels of Russian oil till December; Dubai based Tejarinaft FZCO, which bought 244,000 barrels a day till December; QR trading, which purchased 199,000 barrels a day till December; Hong Kong based Concept Oil Services LTD., which purchased 152,000 barrels per day till December; Hong Kong based Belerix Energy LTD., which purchased 151,000 barrels per day till December; and Coral Energy DMCC, which purchased 121,000 barrels per day till December, although they stopped dealing with Russian oil from January 1.   According to inside information, Tahir Karaev and Azim Novruzov are standing behind Coral: “What’s really funny, if you can call it funny, is that Mathieu Philippe appears as UBO for some of the vessels they operate after he was kicked out of UML because he was Coral’s man.”

It should be noted that these transactions are not a direct violation of the sanction’s regime in place.    According to the Bloomberg report, the Group of Seven and the European Union designed the sanctions on Russian energy with the aim of keeping the oil following, even as the measures added complexity as they were designed to curb Moscow’s revenues.   As US Assistant Treasury Secretary Ben Harris noted, “We’re coming to this with a lot of humility and we’re just asking that everyone else can adopt the same level of uncertainty.   These are really opaque markets; the data’s not great on it.  Let’s just acknowledge that from the onset when we are making conclusions.”

Nevertheless, if the West truly cares about human rights, the sanctions regime in place should bring about an abrupt halt to the sale of Russian oil.    Countries like India, China, and the United Arab Emirates should not be putting Putin on life support by purchasing Russian oil with non-dollar currencies.   For Putin, there should be no feasible means to continue the war in the Ukraine without economically collapsing.    Thus, the West should not be satisfied with the present sanctions regime against Putin and seek to crack down on him even harder.

About the Author
Sivan Gamliel is a freelance journalist based in Bat Yam. Originally from Nahariyya, she grew up exposed to the threat posed by Hezbollah based in Lebanon. She has a BA in communications from Emek Yezrael College.
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