EU agrees new sanctions against Russia as Ukraine war’s second anniversary looms

Barely 10% of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia, poll finds

EU countries have agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia to target individuals and businesses suspected of assisting Moscow in its war against Ukraine, including Chinese companies.

The decision on Wednesday coincides with the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, which began on February 24th, 2022, and comes days after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Belgium, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation union, said the “package is one of the broadest approved by the EU”.

According to several diplomats, EU ambassadors from all member countries agreed to impose sanctions on about 200 companies and individuals. Sources said several Chinese companies, which are believed to have provided help to Russia, have been sanctioned.


The sanctions have yet to be formally adopted. Details of the entities targeted will be revealed when the sanctions are published in the EU’s legal journal.

The EU has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia since Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine.

The measures have targeted the energy sector, banks, the world’s biggest diamond mining company, businesses and markets, and made Russian officials subject to asset freezes and travel bans.

“I welcome the agreement on our 13th sanctions package against Russia,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We must keep degrading Putin’s war machine. With 2,000 listings in total, we keep the pressure high on the Kremlin. We are also further cutting Russia’s access to drones.”

Belgium said the package will undergo a written procedure and be formally approved on Saturday, which marks the second anniversary of the war.

On the battlefield, Russia launched 19 attack drones at Ukraine overnight and six missiles, with the Ukrainian air defence systems destroying 13 of the drones and one missile, Ukraine’s air force said,

Some of the drones that were not destroyed did not reach their targets, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app, without providing further detail. It said the 13 drones that were destroyed were downed chiefly over regions close to the frontline. The air force also said that it destroyed a Russian air-to-surface guided air missile in the Poltava region.

Russia’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, visited troops fighting in the war in Ukraine to discuss the next steps after the taking the town of Avdiivka, state media reported on Wednesday.

He was shown awarding medals to Russian troops involved in taking Avdiivka. Mr Putin said on Tuesday Russian troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

Meanwhile, Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, sources said, deepening the military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries.

Iran’s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700km, experts say.

Iran’s defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards - an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme - declined to comment. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, support for Ukraine among Europeans remains broad, but barely 10 per cent now believe it can defeat Russia, according to an EU-wide survey – with some form of “compromise settlement” seen as the most likely end point.

Nearly two years after the full-scale invasion, the shift in sentiment – this time last year, more Europeans than not said Ukraine must regain all its lost territory – will demand that politicians take a more “realistic” approach that focuses on defining what an acceptable peace must actually mean, the report’s authors argue.

“In order to make the case for continued European support for Ukraine, EU leaders will need to change how they talk about the war,” said co-author Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), which commissioned the polling.

Most Europeans “are desperate to prevent a Russian victory” but do not believe Kyiv can win militarily, Mr Leonard said, meaning that the most convincing argument for an increasingly sceptical public was that continuing aid “could lead to a sustainable, negotiated peace that favours Kyiv – rather than a victory for Putin”.

The January polling in 12 EU member states – including France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden – found that Ukraine’s stalled counteroffensive, growing fears of a US policy shift and the prospect of a second US presidential term for Donald Trump were fuelling pessimism about the war’s outcome.

It was carried out before Ukraine’s retreat at the weekend from the eastern town of Avdiivka, which handed Russia its most significant military victory since the capture of Bakhmut by Wagner troops in May 2023.

The report, Wars and Elections: How European leaders can maintain public support for Ukraine, found that only one in 10 Europeans across the 12 countries surveyed believed Ukraine would win on the battlefield, while twice as many (20 per cent) predicted a Russian victory.

Even in the most optimistic member states surveyed – Poland, Sweden and Portugal – fewer than one in five (17 per cent) believed Kyiv could prevail.

In all countries, the polling showed, the most common opinion, shared by an average of 37 per cent of respondents, was that the war would end in a compromise settlement – although some countries were keener on that outcome than others. – Agencies