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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Blacklist: Shaming The Companies Still Doing Business With Russia

Ukraine has compiled a blacklist of companies it says are "sponsoring" war by still doing business with Russia. The list is causing a stir within the European Union, which is currently working on its 11th round of sanctions.

Ukraine Blacklist: Shaming The Companies Still Doing Business With Russia

An employee pushes shopping carts outside a Metro Cash&Carry hypermarket.

Stefan Beutelsbacher

BRUSSELS — The blacklist is doing the rounds among diplomats in Brussels. It's a sensitive document: a list compiled by the Ukrainian government of what it calls "sponsors of war".

Kyiv accuses more than two dozen companies in Europe, America and Asia of still doing significant business with Russia.

By doing so, it says, they provide Vladimir Putin with large revenues to finance his war. Some companies, the Ukrainians believe, may even be supplying banned products to the Russian army.

Now the blacklist, compiled by a Ukrainian authority called NACP, is getting significant European Union (EU) attention for the first time. The member states are currently negotiating new sanctions against Russia, intending to launch what is now the eleventh package. Technically, they say, the list from Kyiv will not become part of this package. Nevertheless, it is causing quite a stir.

So far, the EU has banned imports of many Russian products, for example coal, oil and vodka. It seized the yachts of oligarchs loyal to Kremlin and froze central bank reserves.

In the eleventh round of sanctions, measures are planned that are to take effect beyond European borders. Experts are calling them extraterritorial sanctions. Brussels plans to punish companies outside the EU that help Putin circumvent the sanctions. That's what makes the list from Kyiv so explosive.

The list includes 26 companies, including one from Germany: Metro. The Düsseldorf-based retail giant continues to do business in Russia. By doing so, says the Ukrainian government, Metro is making the Kremlin a lot of money.

Circumventing sanctions

A Metro spokesman told Die Welt that the group has an independent business in both Russia and Ukraine and has publicly condemned Russia's war in no uncertain terms on several occasions. "Since the beginning of the war, we as Metro have focused on supporting Ukraine as well as maintaining our operational business there," the spokesman added.

Last year, Metro donated about 523 tons of food and 49 tons of personal care and household chemicals to the population and the army. The spokesman did not comment on criticism from Kyiv that Metro was helping to finance Putin's military campaign.

More than 200 have continued, business-as-usual.

So far, more than 1,000 companies voluntarily have withdrawn from Russia or significantly reduced their presence, according to a major study by the U.S. university Yale. But more than 200 have continued with business-as-usual, the U.S. researchers said, at least to the extent allowed by international sanctions.

The Ukrainian blacklist lists four companies from China. This is not surprising. The EU also believes Beijing is secretly helping Russia.

Earlier this month, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, said that several companies registered in China were involved in evading sanctions. They supplied sensitive goods from the EU to Russia via third countries. What those are, she did not say. But Commission officials have spoken in the past of so-called dual-use goods, products that have both civilian and military uses, such as drones, aircraft parts or computer chips.

Oleksandr Novikov arriving at the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for interrogation.

Olena Khudiakova/Ukrinform

Canned vegetables and razors

The blacklist also includes several Greek shipping companies. According to the NACP, they transport Russian oil and may be doing so in violation of EU sanctions.

At the end of last year, Brussels decided on an oil price cap, which means that European shipping companies are no longer allowed to deliver Russian crude oil to third countries unless the price per barrel is below $60.

Procter & Gamble operates a large plant for Gillette razors in St. Petersburg.

Even if the companies are not directly violating sanctions, they still play a role. For example, France's Bonduelle, which produces mainly canned vegetables and salad mixes, is also on the list. By staying on in Russia — according to Ukraine — the company continues to pay taxes there, thus pumping money into the state's coffers.

The same goes for Procter & Gamble from the USA. The company operates a large plant for Gillette razors in St. Petersburg, for example. Canned vegetables and razors are thus suddenly becoming the focus of world politics. This keeps 27 foreign ministers and their diplomats in Brussels busy.

But if Ukraine puts a company on the blacklist, it does not mean that it is actually circumventing sanctions or supplying prohibited goods to Russia. It merely means that Ukraine suspects they do. Or it may just mean that the company has a significant Russian business, which is not illegal per se.

The list is nevertheless explosive. It is a case of "name and shame", of public denunciation with potentially devastating consequences for the companies' reputations.

What's next? No one in Brussels believes that the blacklist will actually lead to penalties against the companies in the near future.

Nevertheless, the pushback is big. The Greek government, it is said, will only agree to new sanctions if the country's shipping companies disappear from the list. And Hungary is upset that the bank OTP is being called a "sponsor of war" and is also threatening to block the move — not a good prospect for sanctions package number 11 from Brussels.

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The Pope's Bronchitis Can't Hide What Truly Ails The Church — Or Whispers Of Succession

It is not only the health of the Pope that worries the Holy See. From the collapse of vocations to the conservative wind in the USA, there are many ills to face.

 Pope Francis reaches over to tough the hands of devotees during his  General Audience at the Vatican.​

November 29, 2023: Pope Francis during his wednesday General Audience at the Vatican.

Evandro Inetti/ZUMA
Gianluigi Nuzzi

ROME — "How am I? I'm fine... I'm still alive, you know? See, I'm not dead!"

With a dose of irony and sarcasm, Pope Francis addressed those who'd paid him a visit this past week as he battled a new lung inflammation, and the antibiotic cycles and extra rest he still must stick with on strict doctors' orders.

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The Pope is dealing with a sensitive respiratory system; the distressed tracheo-bronchial tree can cause asthmatic reactions, with the breathlessness in his speech being the most obvious symptom. Tired eyes and dark circles mark his swollen face. A sense of unease and bewilderment pervades and only diminishes when the doctors restate their optimism about his general state of wellness.

"The pope's ailments? Nothing compared to the health of the Church," quips a priest very close to the Holy Father. "The Church is much worse off, marked by chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses."

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