A top Russian official claimed Tuesday that the European Union and United States' sanctions against Russia for its role in the eastern Ukraine conflict have improved business for companies focused on replacing imports with domestic production. The comments came just hours after the European Union announced its intention to extend the sanctions -- which were first enacted late last year -- through January 2016.
“Extension of sanctions by our Western partners is only positive for us so far,” Russian Public Chamber Secretary Alexander Brechalov said at a press conference, according to Russian outlet TASS. “The longer the sanctions stay in place, the better it will be for businesses, especially those operating in the sphere of import substitution. Obviously, the process of import substitution is underway. Businessmen have felt chances and possibilities.”
Foreign ministers from the European Union’s member nations voted Monday at a summit in Luxembourg to keep sanctions on Russia’s defense, energy, technology and banking industries in place through January 2016. The sanctions were set to expire in July, but they were extended without disagreement among the foreign ministers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Russia enacted countersanctions last summer against the European Union that cost European businesses billions in profit and will keep them in place alongside the EU’s sanctions. “Russia obviously considers these sanctions unfounded [and] illegal, and we have never been nor are we initiators of sanctions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement.
EU representatives previously stated the sanctions will remain until Russia sufficiently convinces the international community of its commitment to the Ukraine ceasefire agreement signed last February in Minsk, Belarus. Russia has denied allegations of its purported involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict, which has killed 6,400 people since it began last year.
The sanctions, coupled with a worldwide drop in oil prices, have done significant damage to the Russian economy, which has fallen into a recession. The Russian ruble’s value plunged, food prices have risen and Russian corporations have been unable to do business on the international market. The nation’s economy will shrink by as much as 6 percent by the end of 2015, the Washington Post reported in March.