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Ukraine war: Russian diamonds set for ban under new EU sanctions

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The European Commission has proposed extending sanctions imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine to diamonds, as part of the EU’s 12th round of measures against Moscow.

This move is linked to the G7, which is also discussing a ban. Since 2022, EU sanctions have covered Russian coal, gas, gold, vodka, and even caviar. However, diamonds mined in Russia’s north-east are still used in engagement rings, necklaces, and earrings worldwide.

The EU has avoided a ban on diamond imports due to Belgium’s desire to protect Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world. Antwerp has been a diamond hub since the 15th Century, with over 80% of all rough diamonds mined globally traded there. Critics argue that importing Russian diamonds is unethical, as much of the money flows directly to the Kremlin. More than 90% of Russian diamonds are produced by a single company called Alrosa, mostly owned by Russian government entities.

Last April, the US banned imports of rough diamonds from Russia and imposed sanctions on Alrosa. In the first half of 2023, Alrosa generated a revenue of $1.9bn (£1.7bn). There is a direct link between buying Russian diamonds and financing the war in Ukraine, and conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are gems sold to finance war.

Russia is desperate for cash to fund its war, and that’s why Russian diamonds are becoming cheaper. Tobias Kormind, managing director of 77 Diamonds, one of the largest online diamond jewellers in Europe, stopped importing Russian gemstones within a few months. A final decision on the European Commission’s proposed ban will be taken by the EU’s 27 member states in the coming weeks.