While the EU and the US are seeking out private companies violating anti-Russian sanctions in the Far East, Armenia continues to increase trade with Russia by means of re-exportation of sanctioned goods.
The central media of Europe and the US regularly say that Armenia serves the main logistic hub of the Kremlin in the aggression against Ukraine. In Kyiv, official Yerevan is being publicly cursed for supporting Moscow. After the measures taken by Turkey and Central Asia to limit illegal shipments into Russia, Armenia’s significance for Russia has increased even more. The authorities of the EU and the US themselves have the evidence on this issue, however, for reasons unclear they do not rush to cut off this supply chain of the aggressor country.
On May 8, the Financial Times reported that the European Commission is preparing sanctions against a number of companies supplying chips and microelectronics for the Russian military industry.
The US and the EU are seeking companies around the world which participate in illegal supply of equipment and goods into Russia. At the same time, they are putting a lot of pressure on countries which Moscow uses to skirt sanctions. As a result, from March till the beginning of May, under the pressure from the US and the EU, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan began to take effective measures to block the parallel import into Russia.
On March 20, Reuters news agency reported that “the Turkish government submitted the list of banned foreign goods to companies, and requested them to not transport the goods into Russia beginning March 1.”
On April 9, the head of the Office of Sanctions coordination of the US, James O’Brien stated: “The Turkish officials very clearly expressed the ban on the re-export of sanctioned goods into Russia. Ankara gave the European Commission verbal assurances that from May 1 the goods that fell under the sanctions will no longer be shipped to Russia.”
On March 23, the Financial Times noted: “Kazakhstan will control the goods coming through the country for re-export…”
According to a senior official of Kazakhstan, they realize all the risks of secondary sanctions. That is why “mutual trade with all the partners is closely monitored”. At the end of April members of the US Treasury visited Kazakhstan with the goal of strengthening sanctions monitoring of Russia.
On May 2, the ambassador of Kazakhstan in Washington, Yerzhan Ashikhbaev announced: “Kazakhstan continues to be completely transparent with our American, European and British partners, committed to the implementation of the sanctions and to being opposed to sanction evasion”.
On February 28, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan issued a warning to three of the country’s private banks regarding compliance with anti-Russian sanctions. In March-April, the US imposed sanctions on Uzbek companies closely linked with Russia. On April 27, the EU sanctions envoy David O’Sullivan announced, while on a visit to Tashkent: “If any illegal transactions take place, if we see, for instance, that some economic entities of Uzbekistan are involved, they will find themselves under sanctions”.
The main channel of sanctions evasion
As the supply restrictions through Turkey and Central Asia are extending, Russia is increasing parallel imports involving Armenia. From January to March, trade turnover grew 2.4-fold. And this in spite of the fact that in 2022, Armenian export into the Russian Federation amounted to $2.4 billion – an increase by 185.7 per cent compared with 2021.
As early as on May 2, in a trilateral collective note of the US Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and the Treasury, Armenia was mentioned among the “staging posts, usually used for illegal transfer of (sanctioned) goods of limited access into Russia and Belarus”.
On March 13, US ABC News pointed out that “the goods evade the sanctions by means of imports from third world countries. For example, Armenian exports into Russia soared by 49 per cent in the first half of 2022”.
On March 21, the website of Ukrainian channel 5 reported : “Armenia is actively helping the Russian Federation to avoid Western sanctions, imposed as a result of aggression against Ukraine. That involves not only supplies of civilian goods from Europe and East Asia, but also equipment for the Russian military industry. Thus, official Yerevan, vehemently trying to create an impression of reorientation towards the West, is actually acting as an accomplice to Putin’s regime”.
On March 23, one of the leading Ukrainian publications Telegraf reported: “Armenia has both the role of a logistic hub and the centre of military-technical supply of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.” It said: “Against the background of war in Ukraine the trade turnover between Armenia and the Russian Federation just “rocketed”: in 2022 Armenian export accounted for $2.4 billion – this is by 185.7 per cent more than the 2021 figures; Russian imports into Armenia amounted to $2.6 billion – an increase by 44.5 per cent.
On February 2 this year, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan happily noted: “There is a good and considerable growth in our trade and economic relations”.
On March 26, Ukrainian news site Today.ua published the data from the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, according to which “Russia holds regular talks with the Armenian side on supplying sanctionable goods for the enemy”.
On March 27, reputable Bulgarian news outlet Fakti emphasised: “The authoritarian regime of president of Russia Vladimir Putin is evading embargo and trade sanctions imposed by the EU, the US and the UK due to the aggression against Ukraine, through the neighboring countries of the former USSR, especially through Armenia.”
On that same day, Lithuanian news site Alfa expressed perplexity: “While the EU and the other countries of the West are trying to toughen the announced sanctions against Russia for the aggression against Ukraine, Russia has found a niche to skirt them: from washing machines to Iranian drones – all the routes to Russia are through Armenia”
On March 28, one of the most popular news portals of Moldova, Stiri , reported : “The drones, which regularly strike the objects of the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, which causes periodic power outages in the Republic of Moldova, are shipped into Russia from Iran due to the cooperation with Armenia”.
On March 29, one of the largest online publications of Romania, Adevarul, confirmed: “Armenia is now functioning as one of the major Russian hubs for the purchase of goods from the EU and Eastern Asiaso as to evade international sanctions imposed on Moscow ”.
On April 2 EUreporter also acknowledged: “Armenia serves as a large hub for supplies of sanctioned (including military) goodsthat supports Russian aggression against Ukraine, and provides a direct connection between Iran and Russia”.
On April 14, the UK’s The Telegraph urged: “It is high time that the West toughened the relationships with some former Soviet satellites and ensured complete isolation of the Kremlin’s military machine. The statistics of the economic growth of Armenia is mere absurd: its 13 per cent growth in just 12 months makes it the candidate for the third place on the list of the fastest growing economies of the world. Armenia has few excuses while it allows itself to act as a transit point”.
On April 18, The New York Times reported about the meeting of US and EU officials, where documents indicating an increase of the import of electronic components used in military industry, through Armenia were reviewed. However, for reasons unknown, sanction measures against Yerevan at this meeting were not discussed.
On May 3, the Romanian version of Newsweek noted: “Lately the role of Armenia in the Russia-Iran coalition and the illegal import of equipment, including military equipment, which is later exported to Russia, has been widely covered by numerous news sources of the Western and Eastern Europe”.
It got to the point where on May 4, one of the most famous and influential media figures of Ukraine Dmitry Gordon publicly cursedthe Armenian leaders: “When people in Ukraine, children, are killed with Russian missiles, bombs, Iranian drones, I curse not only Russia. I curse everyone who assists them to kill Ukrainians…I curse Iran, Armenian leaders, who carry out the re-export”.
It is surprising that receiving so many deeply worrying signals, the figures of the official statistics of Armenia and the data of the US and EU state agencies, Brussels and Washington are not taking any measures to block the main channel of sanction evasion.Could it be true that for some political reasons the US and the EU will just turn a blind eye to the close partnership of the official Yerevan and the Putin regime regardless of the loud curses from Kyiv?
If the Western community truly wants to see the victory of Ukraine soon, it should deprive Moscow of this “logistic hub” as soon as possible and tightly close the illegal supplies of hardware and equipment used in Russian military industry.
(Photo: Kgbo, via Wikimedia Commons)