The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: Is Malta doing enough to sanction Russia?

Monday, 18 April 2022, 11:05 Last update: about 9 months ago

The war in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion of the country, has continued unabated, even as the invaders face international condemnation and sanctions.

In recent weeks, more and more evidence has emerged of how Russia has committed what can only be described as war crimes in Ukrainian towns and villages.  Civilians have been found executed, others have been found buried in mass graves, and stories have emerged of Ukrainians being locked in basements and left to starve for weeks on end.

While the Ukrainians have defended their homeland admirably, the European response – largely made up of economic sanctions – has not had the desired effect, that being discouraging Russia from continuing its invasion.

That has prompted other nations to take certain matters into their own hands as of late, harshening their own response to the war.

In the past days and weeks, almost 400 Russian diplomats, for instance, have been expelled from Europe’s capital cities in an act which is part symbolic prompted by revulsion at Russia’s war crimes, and part a way to cut off Russian intelligence manoeuvres in Europe.

By Friday in fact, there were only three countries which had declined to send any Russian diplomats packing.  These are Hungary – where Viktor Orban’s regime has exhibited closer ties with Putin than others in Europe – Cyprus, and Malta.

It’s certainly not a good look for Malta to not have taken any apparent further action against Russia, even as evidence of its war crimes – some of which was also published locally as this newsroom had a team reporting on the ground in towns such as Bucha – continue to emerge.

It’s an even worse look for the country when one recalls the apparent reluctance that the government had in suspending Malta’s golden passport schemes for Russians – something which did happen eventually, but only after significant pressure both locally and internationally.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Bulgaria banned Russian-flagged ships from entering its Black Sea ports.

“All vessels registered under Russian flag, as well as all vessels that have switched their Russian flag, or flag or maritime register registration to any other state whatsoever after Feb. 24, are forbidden access to Bulgarian maritime and river ports,” the Bulgaria’s maritime authority said.

Exceptions will be made only for ships in distress or seeking humanitarian assistance, or ships transporting energy products, food and pharmaceuticals to EU countries, the Eastern European country said.

Likewise here, Malta has not taken any such action. Instead, we have seen some Russian oligarchs use Malta has a haven for their super yachts: One Russian billionaire who happens to have a Maltese passport parked his yacht in Birgu for some days early in the conflict, while some days ago a superyacht associated with a Russian oligarch who has ties with Putin was making its way to Malta after being refused refuelling in Norway for a number of weeks.

The closing of Malta’s ports to Russian-flagged vessels is certainly another step which the Maltese government can take in order to harshen its response to the war and to the war crimes which Russia has committed.

It’s now quite clear that – contrary to what many thought and what the Russians would have no doubt liked – the war in Ukraine is set to drag on.

As an EU country, Malta’s response and its sanctions against the aggressor will be under the microscope. 

Are we doing enough as things stand?  Let’s just say that other European countries have elected for a more pro-active approach than Malta has thus far, and leave it there.

 

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