Russia has imposed economic sanctions on 322 Ukrainian individuals and 68 legal entities, among which are public companies, oligarchs as well as politicians, according to the special resolution signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on November 1.
The move comes after four years of bitter sanctions tit-for-tat following Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine. Earlier, Moscow imposed a food import ban on Ukraine, which is widely considered to be Moscow's retaliation to Kyiv signing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) trade pact with the EU.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has described Russia's sanctions as Moscow's attempt to affect Ukraine in the run-up to elections in the country slated for 2019.
"Even an absolutely superficial analysis of Russia's so-called sanctions list and the time of its publication indicates the start of a multi-episode soap opera to try to influence Ukraine in the run-up to the elections and after them," he wrote on his official Facebook page on November 1. "But in fact this is not even the first episode, this is only a teaser."
Medvedev's resolution imposed special economic measures, such as freezing accounts and deposits, uncertified securities, and assets in the territory of Russia, and a ban on transferring funds out of Russia.
Among blacklisted companies were some Ukraine's public firms, specifically, the nation's largest poultry producer MHP, sunflower oil producer Kernel and Ukraine’s largest iron ore pellet exporter Ferrexpo. MHP's media office said the same day that Moscow's sanctions would not affect the company's operations. Other sanctioned companies did not provide immediate comments.
Among other blacklisted companies were the Kharkiv Tractor Plant, Ukrkhimenergo, Pokrovsky Mining, Galnaftogaz Concern, Kryvy Rih Iron Ore Plant, Skhidny Mining, Dniproazot, Bank Credit Dnepr and AvtoKrAZ.
A number of Ukrainian top-businessmen were also included to the Moscow sanction list. Specifically, Russia targeted oligarch Victor Pinchuk, who owns holding Interpipe. Pinchuk is married to Olena Pinchuk, the daughter of ex-president Leonid Kuchma.
Among other targeted businessmen is ex-owner of nationalised PrivatBank Hennady Bogolyubov. At the same time, Moscow avoided blacklisting his business partner, Ukraine’s controversial oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who locked in bitter legal disputes with Moscow over his losses in annexed Crimea.
Among other targeted businessmen are Oleksandr Yaroslavsky (DCH group of companies), Konstantin Grigorishin (Energy Standard Group), Andriy Verevsky (Kernel) and Yuriy Kosiuk (MHP), Vitaliy Antonov (OKKO), Oleksiy Vadatursky (Nibulon), Oleksandr Hereha (Epicenter and Nova Linia), Filia Zhebrovska (Farmak), Hlib Zahoriy (Darnitsa), Stepan Ivakhiv (WOG), Volodymyr Kostelman (Fozzy Food), Roman Chihir (Fozzy Group), Oleh Sotnikov (Fozzy Group), Leonid Yurushev (Unibudinvest), Roman Matsola (First Private Brewery), and Pavlo Fuks (Ukrrosleasing).
Some heads of the largest private holdings were also placed on the list, specifically, Metinvest CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov, Smart Holding CEO Oleksiy Pertin, StarLightMedia CEO Volodymyr Borodiansky, SCM CEO Oleh Popov.
"Can't scare a hedgehog with a derriere"
Russia also blacklisted former Ukrainian prime ministers Yulia Tymoshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Tymoshenko is currently the front runner to win next year’s presidential election and including her in the sanctions list is probably a boon to her campaign, as she is seen as too close to Moscow by some. While prime minister Tymoshenko negotiated what turned out to be a disastrous gas deal with Russia that lead to Ukraine paying some of the highest prices in Europe for gas.
Among the incumbent officials who were included to the list are the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov.
The latter said the same day that Moscow "can't scare hedgehogs with their bare derrieres". "This is the only comment I can give about Russian sanctions against Ukraine," Turchynov wrote on his official Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko's spokesman press Svyatoslav Tsegolko described Russia's sanctions on a number of Ukrainian individuals and legal entities as recognition of the Ukrainian president's and his team's efforts to oppose Russia's aggression toward Ukraine.
"This is recognition of the president's and his team's work to oppose the Russian aggression," Tsegolko told Interfax news agency on November 1.
Domestic political impact
Timothy Ash, a senior sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, believes that the sanctions unlikely to have any "meaningful economic impact", as the volumes of trade with Russia have collapsed four- five-fold since 2014. "I also assume that few of the companies of individuals sanctioned have much meaningful business these days with Russia," he wrote in a note to clients on November 1.
More interesting is the Ukrainian domestic political impact, Ash believes. "Moscow has consistently misread Ukrainian domestic politics in recent years, and miscalculated time and again [...], but this will impart a terminal blow to any politician inclined to a more moderate stance towards Russia in the looming presidential elections," he wrote.
"Therein the [pro-Russian] Opposition Bloc leader, Yuriy Boiko, has in effect been cast off by Moscow by this move, albeit he always seemed very unlikely to get thru to the second round of the presidential contest in March."
Meanwile, Zenon Zawada at Kyv-based brokerage Concorde Capital wrote in a note on November 1 that among the businesses targeted, we see some minor impact on the business of sunflower oil producer and grain trader Kernel, which received $7.8mn in income last year - from a Russian port it partially owns.
"The sanctions will further hurt the business of Interpipe, but not by much after Russia hiked import duties for railcar wheels in January. That is likely to have further cut away at Russia’s 15-20% share of Interpipe’s 2017 revenue," he added.
"With this list, the Kremlin is clearly delineating for the public who are its enemies among the Ukrainian political and business elite," he added. "Noticeably, it excludes Ukraine’s leading Russian-oriented politicians and oligarchs, including billionaire Vadim Novinsky, Motor Sich Chairman Viacheslav Boguslayev, Opposition Bloc Head Yuriy Boyko, Akhmetov ally MP Oleksandr Vilkul and gas trader Dmytro Firtash."
At the same time, there are a few notable exceptions to this rule, Zawada added. "The list does not include President Poroshenko and his ally, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov," he wrote. "Instead, it includes the president’s eldest son, Oleksiy. The list also excludes other top officials, such as Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. But it includes leading presidential contender Tymoshenko."
Zawada believes that this is a deliberate Kremlin tactic to give Poroshenko’s leading political opponent, Tymoshenko, an electoral "boost". "She will waste no time in using this list to prove that Poroshenko is the truly Kremlin ally, rather than her," the expert added. "It’s widely suspected that Poroshenko has tacit business agreements with Putin, and that both are profiting from the war."