EU support for Ukraine: from sanctions to military and humanitarian aid

August 4, 2023

  • How is the EU helping Ukraine?
  • The EU promised ‘massive sanctions’ against Russia: what do those sanctions actually mean?
  • What about Belarus? Is it also facing EU sanctions for its role in the war?
  • The EU says it will supply military equipment to Ukraine: what does this mean in practice?
  • What about humanitarian support?
  • How is the EU helping Ukrainian refugees?
  • Is the EU doing anything to support energy supply to Ukraine?
  • Ukraine has officially applied to join the European Union: how has the EU responded?
  • What is the EU doing to support the neighbouring Republic of Moldova?
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How is the EU helping Ukraine?

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, European Union leaders and institutions immediately and strongly condemned Russian aggression and the violation of international law. The EU demands that Russia immediately ceases military actions, unconditionally withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

The EU stands united in its unwavering support to Ukraine and has stepped up its political, humanitarian, financial and military support to the country. Since the Russian aggression started, the EU and its financial institutions have mobilised €37.8 billion to support Ukraine’s overall economic, social and financial resilience in the form of macro-financial assistance, budget support, emergency assistance, crisis response and humanitarian aid.

For the first time ever, the EU is also financing the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack. At the same time, the EU has introduced an unprecedented package of sanctions against the Kremlin, as well as the Lukashenko regime in Belarus.

The EU promised ‘massive sanctions’ against Russia: what do those sanctions actually mean?

The sanctions against Russia are the largest in the history of the European Union, and are designed to take a heavy toll on the Russian economy and the Kremlin.

Acting in close coordination with its partners and allies – NATO, G7, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, South Korea, Japan and Australia – the EU has agreed several waves of sanctions, on 23 February 2022 in response to Russian recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, followed by eleven packages of sanctions since the invasion, first on 24 February in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and subsequently on 26 February, 28 February, 15 March, 8 April, 30 May, 21 July, 6 October, 16 December 2022, 25 February 2023 and 23 June.

 

 

Financial

The EU has excluded key Russian banks from SWIFT, the world’s dominant financial messaging system for cross-border payments, targeting a first wave of banks on 2 March 2022, and adding a further three Russian credit institutions, including the country’s largest bank Sberbank on 3 June. Three additional Russian banks were sanctioned on 16 December 2022, including a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank to further paralyse Putin’s cash machines.

Cutting off Russia from the network will cause major disruption to its economy as it will severely restrict the country’s access to global financial markets, and makes it difficult for Russian firms and individuals to pay for imported goods or receive payments for their exports. In addition, the EU has imposed a full transaction ban and asset freeze on four key Russian banks, which are now totally cut off from the markets. They represent 23% of market share in the Russian banking sector and will, therefore, further weaken Russia’s financial system.

The EU has also banned the transactions of Russia’s central bank, the single most important financial institution in Russia. This paralyses billions in foreign reserves, potentially turning off the tap on Putin’s war.

EU sanctions further expand existing financial restrictions, cutting Russian access to the most important capital markets. They prohibit the listing and provision of services in relation to shares of Russian state-owned entities on EU trading venues, and introduce new measures which significantly limit the financial inflows from Russia to the EU, by prohibiting the acceptance of deposits exceeding certain values from Russian nationals or residents, the holding of accounts of Russian clients by the EU Central Securities Depositories, as well as the selling of euro-denominated securities to Russian clients. The sanctions include crypto-assets.

The EU has also banned the provision of any credit rating services, as well as access to any subscription services in relation to credit rating activities, to any Russian person or entity, which would result in them losing even further access to the EU’s financial markets.

On 3 June 2022, the EU also agreed to prohibit the provision of certain business-relevant services, such as accounting, auditing, statutory audit, bookkeeping and tax consulting services, business and management consulting, and public relations services to the Russian government, as well as to legal persons, entities or bodies established in Russia.

These sanctions target 70% of the Russian banking market, and key state-owned companies, including in the field of defence. They will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base. Additionally measures are taken to prevent the Russian elite’s fortunes from being hidden in safe havens in Europe.

Airspace and transport

The European Union has shut down EU airspace for all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft, including private jets. They will no longer be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU.

On 8 April 2022, the EU imposed an entry ban on Russian-flagged vessels to EU ports, and a ban ban on Russian and Belarusian freight road operators working in the EU. Certain exemptions will cover essentials, such as agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid as well as energy.

The EU has also introduced an export ban covering goods and technology in the aviation and space industry, as well as a prohibition on the provision of insurance and reinsurance and maintenance services related to those goods and technology. Three quarters of Russia’s current commercial air fleet were built in the EU, the US and Canada.

Energy

On 30 May 2022, the EU agreed a ban on Russian oil imports. EU operators have also been barred from insuring and financing the transport, in particular through maritime routes, of Russian oil to third countries.

The EU has also prohibited the sale, supply, transfer or export to Russia of specific goods and technologies in oil refining, and  introduced restrictions on the provision of related services.

By introducing such an export ban, the EU intends to hit the Russian oil sector, and make it impossible for Russia to upgrade its oil refineries.

On 15 March, the EU further prohibited new investments in the Russian energy sector, and introduced a comprehensive export restriction on equipment, technology and services for the energy industry.

The fifth round of sanctions on 8 April 2022 imposed an import ban on all forms of Russian coal. This affects one fourth of all Russian coal exports, amounting to around €8 billion loss of revenue per year for Russia.

The sanctions adopted on 6 October 2022 introduced into EU legislation the basis to put in place a price cap related to the maritime transport of Russian oil for third countries and further restrictions on the maritime transport of crude oil and petroleum products to third countries.

Technology

The EU has imposed restrictions on exports of dual-use goods and technology, as well as restrictions on exports of certain goods and technology which might contribute to Russia’s technological enhancement of its defence and security sector. This includes products such as semiconductors or cutting-edge technologies, as well as jet fuel and fuel additives, which may be used by the Russian army.

On 9 March 2022, the EU introduced additional restrictions on the export of maritime navigation and radio communication technology, added the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping to the list of state-owned enterprises subject to financing limitations and introduced a prior information sharing provision for exports of maritime safety equipment.

On 8 April, the EU introduced further targeted export bans in areas in which Russia is vulnerable due to its high dependency on EU supplies. This includes quantum computing, advanced semiconductors, sensitive machinery, transportation and chemicals. It also includes specialist catalysts for use in the refinery industry. 

On 3 June, the EU expanded its list of export restrictions to include additional chemicals that could be used in the process of manufacture of chemical weapons.

The list of restricted items was extended on 6 October to include certain electronic components, additional chemicals and goods that can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The eighth sanctions package also prohibits the sale, supply, transfer or export of civilian firearms and their essential components and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts.

The ninth sanctions package approved on 16 December 2022 added bans on the export of drone engines, camouflage gear, additional chemical/biological equipment, riot control agents and additional electronic components found in Russian military systems on the battlefield, as well as additional industrial goods and technology, such as toy/hobby drones, complex generator devices, laptop computers and computing components, printed circuits, radio navigational systems, radio remote control apparatus, aircraft engines and parts of engines, cameras and lenses.

The 11th package of sanctions included a new anti-circumvention tool allowing the EU to restrict the sale, supply, transfer or export of specified sanctioned goods and technology to certain third countries whose jurisdictions are considered to be at continued and particularly high risk of circumvention.

Industry

On 15 March 2022, the EU introduced trade restrictions concerning iron and steel, amounting to approximately €3.3 billion in lost export revenue for Russia.

Trade

The EU, together with other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, agreed on 15 March 2022 to deny Russian products and services most favoured nation treatment in EU markets. This follows an announcement on 11 March by G7 members. This will suspend the significant benefits that Russia enjoys as a WTO member.

The EU has also imposed import bans on cement, rubber products, wood, spirits (including vodka), liquor, and high-end seafood (including caviar). On 21 July, it added a ban on the import of gold originating in Russia. Trade restrictions were extended on 6 October to include machinery and appliances, plastics, vehicles, textiles, footwear, leather, ceramics, certain chemical products, wood pulp and paper, cigarettes, cosmetics as well as elements used in the jewellery industry such as stones and precious metals, that altogether generate significant revenues for Russia. 

Media

The EU has suspended the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT/Russia Today as well as Rossiya RTR/RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24/Russia 24, and TV Centre International – identified  among the most important pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets targeting audiences in Ukraine and the EU, and disseminating propaganda in support of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. As part of its ninth sanctions package, NTV, Pervyi Kanal, Rossiya 1 and REN TV were added to the list of sanctioned media.

This measure will be effective until the aggression against Ukraine is put to an end, and until the Russian Federation and its associated outlets cease to conduct disinformation and information manipulation actions against the EU and its member states.

Restrictive measures

Restrictive measures now apply to close to 1,800 individuals and entities: they include an asset freeze and a prohibition from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities. In addition, a travel ban applicable to the listed persons prevents these from entering or transiting through EU territory.

The list includes the Russian President and Foreign Minister, the members of the National Security Council who supported Russia’s recognition of the two non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, all the members of the Russian State Duma, who ratified the government decision of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the two entities. It also includes oligarchs and businessmen active in the oil, banking and finance sectors, and the metallurgical, agriculture, pharmaceutical, telecom and digital industries, as well as government members, high-level military personalities and senior military officials involved in atrocities in Ukraine, and propagandists who have contributed to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda and promote a positive attitude towards the invasion of Ukraine. From 6 October, it also includes those involved in Russia’s occupation, illegal annexation, and sham “referenda” in the occupied territories/oblasts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The EU has also decided to prohibit all transactions with certain state-owned enterprises across different sectors – the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex, and on 6 October banned EU nationals from holding any posts on the governing bodies of Russian state-owned or controlled legal persons, entities or bodies.

In addition, diplomats, other Russian officials, and businesspeople will no longer be able to benefit from visa facilitation provisions, which allow privileged access to the EU. This decision will not affect ordinary Russian citizens.

The EU has also taken measures to limit the sale of citizenship – so-called golden passports – that allow wealthy Russians to become EU citizens, and has introduced an EU export ban on luxury goods (e.g. luxury cars, jewelry, etc.) to directly hit Russian elites.

You can find all the latest sanctions updates on our #StandWithUkraine page and on the European Commission’s page on EU sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

What about Belarus? Is it also facing EU sanctions for its role in the war?

The Lukashenko regime in Belarus is supporting the Russian military aggression against Ukraine by allowing Russia to fire ballistic missiles from the Belarusian territory, enabling transportation of Russian military personnel and heavy weapons, tanks, and military transporters, allowing Russian military aircraft to fly over Belarusian airspace into Ukraine, providing refuelling points, and storing Russian weapons and military equipment in Belarus.

In response, the EU has imposed sanctions targeting those in Belarus who collaborate with these attacks against Ukraine and restricting trade in a number of key sectors.

A total of 42 high-ranked members of Belarusian military personnel face restrictive measures for their role in the war, which include an asset freeze and travel ban.

Furthermore, the EU has introduced  restrictions in the trade of goods used for the production or manufacturing of tobacco products, mineral fuelsbituminous substances and gaseous hydrocarbon products, potassium chloride (“potash”) products, wood products, cement products, iron and steel products and rubber products. There are also restrictions on exports of dual-use goods and technology, and certain advanced goods and technology which might contribute to Belarus’ military, technological, defence and security development, together with restrictions on the provision of related services.

On 9 March 2022, the EU introduced SWIFT prohibitions against three Belarusian banks – Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus – adding the Belarusian Bank For Development And Reconstruction on 3 June. It also prohibited transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus related to the management of reserves or assets, and the provision of public financing for trade with and investment in Belarus.

On 3 August 2023, the EU introduced a series of additional restrictive measures, aligning the Belarus sanctions with the Russia sanctions regime. These include an export ban on goods and technology suited for use in aviation and the space industry, including aircraft engines and drones; a prohibition of the sale, supply, transfer or export of firearms, their parts and essential components and ammunition; further export restrictions on goods used by Russia for its war of aggression against Ukraine, including semiconductor devices, electronic integrated circuits, manufacturing and testing equipment, photographic cameras and optical components; and an extended export ban on dual-use goods and technology.

The EU also imposed sanctions against an additional 38 individuals and 3 entities from Belarus who are responsible for serious human rights violations, contribute to the repression of civil society and democratic forces, as well as those who benefit from and support the Lukashenko regime. Altogether, EU restrictive measures on Belarus now apply to a total of 233 individuals and 37 entities.

 

The EU says it will supply military equipment to Ukraine: what does this mean in practice?

Another taboo has fallen, in the words of EU High Representative Josep Borrell: for the first time in its history, the EU will be providing lethal equipment to a third country.

The EU initially agreed to mobilise €500 million through the European Peace Facility to finance the supply of lethal and non-lethal material to the Ukrainian army, with additional tranches of €500 million added on 23 March, 13 April, 13 May, 19 July, 17 October 2022, and 23 January 2023, and another €1 billion on 13 April 2023 for a total of €4.6 billion.

The agreed measures will finance both the provision of equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian Armed Forces by EU Member States, including personal protective equipment, first aid kits and fuel, as well as military equipment designed to deliver lethal force for defensive purposes. 

In addition, the EU on 17 October 2022 agreed to set up a two-year Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine), providing training to the Ukrainian armed forces and coordination and synchronisation of member states’ own training support for Ukraine.

In total, EU military support for Ukraine – provided by the European Peace Facility and the Member States directly – is around €13 billion.

What about humanitarian support?

A total of €685 million has been made available for humanitarian aid projects to help civilians affected by the war in Ukraine. This includes €637 million for Ukraine and €48 million for Moldova to provide assistance to people fleeing Ukraine. This EU humanitarian aid provides food, water, healthcare, shelter and other basic needs, as well as a winter shelter programme.

Another €330 million goes to an emergency support programme that helps to secure access to basic goods and services, such as to education, healthcare and food. It also helps to protect the population, both internally displaced people and of their host communities and to support small and medium enterprises and agriculture. Another important goal is to reconstruct civilian small-scale infrastructure, ensure energy security, and strengthen cyber security, media freedom and actions against disinformation.

At the ‘Stand Up for Ukraine’ global pledging event on 9 April 2022, launched by the European Commission and Canada, €9.1 billion was raised for people fleeing the Russian invasion, inside Ukraine and abroad, including €1 billion from the European Commission. On top of that, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has announced an additional €1 billion in loan to cover the needs of the people displaced by the invasion.

The Commission is also coordinating the delivery of material assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Ukraine, with offers from all 27 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Turkey, North Macedonia, Iceland and Serbia, in what is now  the largest ever activation of the Mechanism. The assistance includes over 80 million items such as first aid kits, shelter equipment, firefighting equipment, water pumps, power generators, and fuel, and the EU keeps receiving new offers every day. 

Moldova has also activated the Mechanism to support Ukrainians arriving to their country. Already Austria, France and the Netherlands have offered emergency support such as shelter items and medical assistance to Moldova. On 3 March, the EU announced immediate support of €15 million to Moldova, and an additional €5 million in civil protection aid.

As needs have grown exponentially, further assistance has been sent to Ukraine via the rescEU medical stockpiles based in Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands. With a total financial value of over €87 million, the rescEU support includes ventilators, infusion pumps, patient monitors, masks and gowns, ultrasound devices and oxygen concentrators.

You can find all the latest updates on EU support on our #StandWithUkraine page and on the European Commission’s EU Solidarity with Ukraine page.

How is the EU helping Ukrainian refugees?

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, more than six million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe since the war began.

On 4 March 2022, the Council of the European Union unanimously agreed to activate the Temporary Protection Directive to offer quick and effective assistance to people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

This means that those fleeing the war will be granted temporary protection across the European Union: this includes residency rights, access to the labour market, access to housing, social welfare assistance, medical or other assistance, and means of subsistence.

Temporary protection starts applying to Ukrainian refugees immediately for one year, and can last for up to three years – unless the situation in Ukraine improves sufficiently for people to go back home and the scheme to end.

Non-Ukrainian nationals and stateless people legally residing in Ukraine who cannot return to their country or region of origin, such as asylum seekers or beneficiaries of international protection and their family members, will also be granted protection in the EU. Others who are legally present in Ukraine for a short-term and are able to return safely to their country of origin will be allowed access to the EU to transit prior to returning to their countries of origin.

The EU has also ordered simplification of border controls for those fleeing the war, flexibility regarding entry conditions, opening temporary border crossing points, easy access for rescue services and humanitarian assistance, and facilitations for refugees bringing personal belongings and pets.

A dedicated EU webpage provides information for refugees leaving Ukraine, with comprehensive information on their rights in the EU, practical advice and links to available support in individual member states. Information for people fleeing the war in Ukraine

 

Is the EU doing anything to support energy supply to Ukraine?

On 16 March 2022, the Ukrainian electricity grid – together with that of Moldova – was successfully synchronised with the Continental European Grid, in an acceleration of a project begun in 2017, with technicians from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO E) doing “a year’s work in two weeks” after Ukraine disconnected its grid from the Russian system on the day of the invasion.

 

The EU is also delivering gas to Ukraine through physical reverse flow capacity from West to East.

The European Commission has also provided Member States with a list of requests from Ukraine with urgent needs in the energy sector. The list covers things like diesel, petrol, jet fuel and generators. Concrete deliveries are already scheduled from Poland, Lithuania and Czechia and many other Member States have pledged their help.

On 11 May, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) provided €50 million of emergency liquidity to Ukrenergo, the country’s electricity transmission company, to enable the stable functioning of the Ukrainian electricity grid as well as nuclear generators and maintain power supplies to industries and households.

The EU is also providing 2,400 additional power generators, on top of the 3,000 already delivered since the beginning of the war. At the request of the European Commission, over €157.5 million have been made available to cover the immediate needs in the energy sector under the Ukraine Energy Support Fund established by the Energy Community. The EU is also mobilising €30 million to purchase 35 million LED light bulbs for Ukraine.

Ukraine has officially applied to join the European Union: how has the EU responded?

On 23 June 2022, a Summit of EU leaders unanimously agreed to grant candidate status to Ukraine, following a recommendation from the European Commission on 17 June. 

Ukraine now needs to make progress on the conditions set out in the European Commission’s Opinion on its application in areas including anti-corruption and the rule of law. The Commission will monitor Ukraine’s progress in fulfilling these steps and report on them as part of the next ‘Enlargement package’ due in Autumn 2023. The EU will decide on the next steps once these conditions are fully met.

Ukraine formally applied to join the European Union on 28 February 2022

A week later, on 7 March, the EU agreed to begin examining the accession bids from the three countries, with the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER II), agreeing to invite the European Commission to present an opinion on each of the applications. While the move is technical, it launches the process for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to be accepted as candidate countries.

During her visit to Kyiv on 8 April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen handed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy the questionnaire, which forms the starting point for the EU to decide on Ukraine’s membership.

The questionnaire is a formal instrument through which the European Commission assesses a country’s readiness to move forward in the accession process, namely to be granted candidate country status and to open accession negotiations. 

“Due to our Association Agreement, Ukraine is already closely aligned with our Union. So we will accelerate this process as much as we can, while ensuring that all conditions are respected,” von der Leyen said.

Since the signature of the Association Agreement in 2014, Ukraine has embarked on an ambitious reform programme to accelerate economic growth and improve the livelihoods of its citizens. In that timeframe, the EU and financial institutions have mobilised more than €17 billion in grants and loans to support reforms.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, travelled to Kyiv on 2-3 February 2023, accompanied by 15 Commissioners, for the first ever meeting between the College and the Ukrainian Government. The meeting took stock of the EU’s ongoing support to Ukraine in different areas, including financial, humanitarian, energy, budget support as well as diplomatic outreach. In addition, it looked into the reform efforts by Ukraine to advance on its EU path, and outlined further steps to enhance sectorial cooperation.

On 3 March 2022, both the Republic of Moldova and Georgia also made formal applications to join the European Union.

On 23 June, the EU granted Moldova candidate status, and recognised the European perspective of Georgia, saying candidate status would be granted once a number of priorities had been addressed.

You can find all the latest updates on Ukraine’s application to join the EU on our #StandWithUkraine page and on the European Commission’s EU Solidarity with Ukraine page.

 

 

 

 

What is the EU doing to support the neighbouring Republic of Moldova?

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU has stressed its unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. 

The EU has underlined its solidarity with Moldova as it faces an influx of refugees, with over 750,000 refugees entering the country and around 102,000 still remaining on Moldovan territory in the beginning of 2023.

In response, the European Commission has allocated a total of €48 million for humanitarian operations, to support the refugees and their host communities in Moldova.  

In February 2022, Moldova activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism requesting assistance for management of migration flows. So far, 19 EU countries and Norway have provided emergency assistance to Moldova via the Mechanism. This includes deliveries of shelter equipment, medical supplies, power generators, and other essential items.

On 5 April 2022, the EU announced an additional €53 million to help the Republic of Moldova cope with the multiple repercussions of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. This support will be provided as a budget support programme to be delivered as quickly as possible. Since October 2021, the EU has provided more than €1.09 billion in support to Moldova, including grants and loans.

In addition, the EU has announced support in the areas of security and defence: the EU will help Moldova to strengthen its cyber security, with an expert mission already in Chisinau to assess the needs and identify concrete support measures that can be implemented at very short notice. The EU will also provide the Moldovan armed forces with medical equipment and support in case of crisis, and will discuss options for additional assistance and logistics, if needed. In April 2023, the EU set up a civilian mission to strengthen the security sector in Moldova in the areas of crisis management and hybrid threats, including cybersecurity, and countering foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI).

The European Union has also agreed to connect Moldova’s electricity system to the EU power grid as quickly as possible, and in November 2022 announced a €250 million energy support package to help Moldova meet its gas supply needs and support vulnerable populations. 

Meanwhile, the EU continues to provide support beyond immediate needs, through an economic recovery plan worth €600 million as well as the economic and investment plan with five flagship initiatives for Moldova leveraging up to €3.4 billion.



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