The European Union and the United States of America, in particular, the U.S. Congress, have already raised the issue of a new package of anti-Russian sanctions for organizing and holding by Moscow of illegal elections in the occupied territories of Donbas. That is, the initiative to punish Russia has already been voiced and is now being discussed. Therefore, I don't rule out that the new anti-Russian sanctions package will indeed come to light.
However, we should not overestimate the value and effectiveness of this new set because Russia still has a certain safety cushion. Despite the fact that sanctions do work, they are unable to totally destroy Russian economy because of the limited tools.
However, of course, sanctions create an uncomfortable situation for Russia's political elite. After all, the primary counter-requirement Russians put forward in talks with Europeans and in personal discussions between diplomats is the request to remove personal sanctions from a wide number of Russian representatives. So, in fact, Russians are very concerned about those personal sanctions. They find important for the international community to stop paying attention to and doing financial monitoring of Russian transactions in European and American banks. It also is important for them to remain connected to SWIFT.
The pressure on the Russian elite will keep growing, and they will have less space for retreat and opportunities for maneuver
In addition, Russia is losing its ability to attract investments, receive support or financing for their dual-use projects, and so on.
That is, for Russia, sanctions remain a significant instrument of pressure and coercion to a certain negotiating position. At the moment though there is no political will and there is the Kremlin's reluctance to take into account the interests of those who suffered from these sanctions. But over time, I believe the pressure on the Russian elite will keep growing, and they will have less space for retreat and opportunities for maneuver.
What kind of sanctions could be imposed over the "elections" in the occupied parts of Donbas? These should be personal sanctions against those who participated in organizing the voting process in the so-called "DPR" and "LPR": curators, commanders of military units, "political technologists," and Russian security agencies that ensured "public order."
Assets of Ukrainians who participated in the organization of the "election process" in the occupied Donbas should be blocked both in Ukraine and worldwide – "ground must burn under their feet"
And it's not only those persons, but also Ukrainian nationals directly involved in organizing the "election process" in the war-torn occupied territories, who must be included in the sanctions list. The SBU security service says that some 6,500 people have already been identified who were somehow involved in the elections' organization. These are members of "election commissions," organizers of the very electoral action, and others. In relation to them, court rulings should be handed down in absentia, designating them as criminal suspects, and they should be declared wanted persons – in Ukraine and internationally – as those who committed a grave crime against the Ukrainian State. The assets of these people should be blocked both in Ukraine and worldwide – "ground must burn under their feet."
Vitaly Kulik is a head of the Center for Civil Society Studies