EU adopts maintenance and alignment package of sanctions against Russia



On 21 July 2022, the Council of the European Union agreed to new EU measures in response to the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, existing sanctions have been readjusted to increase their effectiveness and additional individuals and institutions have been added to the sanctions list. 

The additional sanctions, referred to as the “maintenance and alignment package”, amend Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine (sectoral sanctions) and Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine (financial sanctions). The new sanctions are aimed at the trade in gold, one of Russia’s important export commodities. There are also further restrictions on the export of certain goods and high technologies in order to weaken Russia’s defence and security sector. Action is also being taken to prevent circumvention of existing sanctions. In contrast, sanctions are being eased in certain areas; for example, exemptions for transactions relating to agricultural products are being expanded to counteract global food crises. Correspondingly, the EU is emphasising that none of the new measures is aimed at food supplies. Another easing of sanctions involves transactions that serve to provide legal protection.

By adopting the implementing regulations (EU) 2022/1270 and (EU) 2022/1274 to Regulation (EU) No 269/2014, the EU has also added more high-ranking politicians, military personnel and legal entities from the business, research and political sectors to the sanctions list. Those affected include companies from the defence sector and Sberbank, a large Russian financial institution. The latter has already been subject to financial sanctions in the USA and the UK for some time; the EU has now followed suit with European sanctions.

A. Trade in gold

A major change arising from the EU’s maintenance and alignment package concerns the gold trade, which constitutes Russia’s most significant export after energy (Recital (4) of Regulation (EU) 2022/1269). The new restrictions make it even more difficult for the Russian Federation to finance the Ukraine war. For example, the new regulation introduces a prohibition to purchase, import or transfer of specified products of gold and jewellery and of goldsmiths’ wares originating in Russia. The same applies to specified products when processed in a third country incorporating the banned Russian gold products, Article 3o in conjunction with Annex XXVI and Annex XXVII of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014, as amended.

B. Export of goods and technologies

The list of items that could contribute to strengthening Russia’s technological position in the areas of security and defence, and which are therefore not permitted to be sold, transferred, supplied or exported to Russia, is extended. Consequently, with the new maintenance and alignment package, the list in Annex VII to Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 now includes water cannon systems and other police equipment, certain chemicals and machine tools. In addition, the list of Annex XXIII of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 has been adjusted. The adjustment includes goods that contribute to strengthening Russia’s industrial capacity. The extended prohibitions can be found in Article 2a in conjunction with Annex VII as amended and Article 3k in conjunction with Annex XXIII as amended of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014.

C. Preventing circumvention of sanctions

Another change is intended to prevent the circumvention of existing sanctions. Until now, ships flying the Russian flag were only denied access to ports in the Union. Under the new version, this ban has been extended to the use of locks after 29 July 2022, thus further restricting the movement radius of ships registered in Russia, Article 3ea(1) Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 as amended.

Another adaptation to prevent the circumvention of sanctions concerns Article 5b of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014, which previously prohibited accepting deposits from Russian nationals or companies established in Russia. This prohibition now also covers legal persons, entities or bodies in third countries that are controlled by Russian nationals or natural persons residing in Russia. It is not permissible to accept from such natural or legal persons, entities or bodies deposits with a total value that exceeds EUR 100,000 (Article 5b(1) Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 as amended). In addition, the previously applicable exception in Article 5b(4) for deposits required for non-prohibited cross-border trade in goods and services between the Union and Russia has been removed. A ban on acceptance now also applies to such deposits.

D. New exceptions

In addition, some exceptions have been created. For example, some aspects of the general transaction prohibitions with legal entities under Russian state control have been lifted. Thus, among others, transactions which are necessary for the purchase, import or transport of medical products, but also of food and agricultural products, are now permissible, provided that this is allowed under the regulation. Transactions that serve to provide access to the legal system in a Member State are also possible. With these amendments, the EU’s maintenance and alignment package continues the line of the sixth sanctions package, in which certain legal services were already exempted from sanctions. The exemptions can be found in Article 5aa(3) lit. f and lit. g of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 as amended. The exemption from the prohibition of transactions strictly necessary for the wind-down of a joint venture has been extended until 31 December 2022, Article 5aa(3) lit. d of Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 as amended.

E. Financial sanctions against further persons and institutions

The freezing obligation and the provision prohibition of Article 2 of Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 have been extended to additional persons and institutions, and the list in Annex I of the Regulation has been expanded accordingly. The newly listed persons include in particular military personnel and politicians from Russia and in the occupied territories. The institutions now listed include the important Russian bank Sberbank, which was previously only subject to a securities trading ban in the EU and excluded from SWIFT, as well as companies in the shipbuilding and defence sectors. Individuals and institutions from Syria that support the Russian war of aggression have also been added to the list.

Summary and evaluation

At first glance, the most striking innovation of the new sanctions package in terms of sanctioned goods is the ban on gold trade with Russia. Gold is Russia’s second most important single export good. Compared to oil, petroleum products and related goods at 35.67%, gold for non-monetary purposes amounted to a 5.5% share of Russia’s export trade in 2020, according to Statista. These figures make the sanctions package entitled “maintenance and alignment package” appear less ambitious than the previous six sanctions packages, not only in terms of its name. In addition, the demand by some Member States for a gas embargo did not make it into the new sanctions package. It also does not include a restriction on the acquisition of real estate by Russian persons in the EU – a measure that had already failed to make it into the sixth sanctions package.

However, the EU’s efforts to further enable trade in food and agricultural products in view of global food shortages should be highlighted. With regard to the listing and freezing of assets of individual institutions, the Sberbank, whose majority shareholder is the Russian Central Bank, is particularly noteworthy.


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