On February 24th, Russia then invaded Ukraine, with missiles and bombings taking place in and around major cities, including the capital of Kyiv.
The UK, the US, and other Western countries have all publicly condemned Russia’s actions as acts of war and advocated for Ukraine’s right to choose its own security alliances.
As the conflict escalates with the most recent Russian troop movements, world powers will likely impose harsher sanctions.
Here’s what sanctions are, how they’ve been used in the past, and what will be placed on Russia.
What are sanctions?
Sanctions refer to penalties, ranging from travel bans to withholding goods, that are put in place when organisations or countries have broken laws.
Use of sanctions is not new, dating all the way back to ancient Greek civilisation.
In more recent history, sanctions have been used on several occasions throughout the 20th Century, including after the Second World War when the UN enshrined sanctions in its original charter and enabled the UN Security Council to be able to impose sanctions in the future.
Another example can be found in the international sanctions levelled against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s, which led to roughly $20 billion worth of business being held from South African businesses.
The goal of sanctions is to put pressure on business, organisations, or individuals in the hope that they will withdraw whatever support they are providing.
What sanctions will be imposed on Russia?
Countries and organisations around the world have imposed sanctions on Russia.
Nonetheless, according to Russia's TASS agency the Russian government has stated it is ready to protect its financial services and companies from any economic sanctions.
List of sanctions on Russia
US sanctions on Russia
In the case of Russia, sanctions are largely focused on preventing Russia from funding its military efforts and seeking to undermine the Kremlin’s political authority.
The United States announced sanctions on Tuesday February 22nd, meaning that two state-owned banks that underpin Russia's defence sector will no longer be able to do business in the United States or access the American financial system.
The United States also stated it would sanction five Russian elites and added restrictions on American deals involving Russia's national debt.
As a result, Americans are now banned from doing business in the rebel-held areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.
The White House also went on to say that it could impose wider sanctions "should Russia further invade Ukraine", which it did on February 24th.
The Biden administration confirmed further sanctions would be placed on Russia, but have not yet confirmed what they will be.
UK sanctions on Russia
Speaking in the House of Commons on February 22nd, Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK would also place sanctions on Russia.
Five Russian banks had their assets frozen and three members of the Russian elite have had travel bans imposed on them.
On February 24th following the Russian invasion, Johnson announced further sanctions on Russia including:
- All major Russian banks to have their assets frozen and be excluded from the UK financial system
- Legislation to stop major Russian companies and the state from borrowing money on UK markets
- Asset freezes on 100 new individuals or businesses
- Russian airline Aeroflot will be banned from landing in the UK
- Suspension of dual-use export licences to cover components which can be used for military purposes
- Halt on exports of high-tech items and oil refinery equipment
- Limit on deposits Russians can make in UK bank accounts
- Financial sanctions against Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine
- Potentially cutting Russia out from the Swift international payment system and "nothing is off the table"
Individuals facing sanctions include Putin's ex-son in law, Kirill Shamalov, who is Russia's youngest billionaire.
European sanctions on Russia
The EU also announced sanctions, targeting 27 Russian individuals and organisations, including several banks.
Access to European capital markets will also be limited, effectively blocking access to funds from EU banks and banning trade between the EU and Luhansk and Donetsk.
351 members of Russia's Duma, the lower parliamentary house, were also sanctioned.
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission president, alongside Charles Michel, head of the European Council, and Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, revealed a new package of sanctions on Russia.
"Putin ordered atrocious acts against... innocent people" and "the stability of Europe" is at stake, said President von der Leyen.
"President Putin chose to bring war back to Europe... the EU will make it as difficult as possible to pursue its actions."
New sanctions will have a "heavy impact" on Russia, Ms von der Leyen says, adding they will "seriously degrade the Russian economy" and cut its access to new technology.
German sanctions on Russia
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project will be halted.
The $11.6bn project is owned by Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom and had previously been criticised by the United States for increasing Europe’s reliance on Russia for energy.
Ukrainian sanctions on Russia
Ukraine’s parliament approved sanctions on 351 Russians, including lawmakers who supported the mobilisation of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions restrict almost a wide range of activities, in particular a ban on entry into Ukraine, prohibit access to assets, capital, property, licenses for business.
Japanese and Australian sanctions on Russia
The two countries also announced penalties on Russian individuals connected with the aggression against Ukraine.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison targeted members of Russia’s Security Council, while Japan’s sanctions focus on finances, banning Russian bonds in Japan and freezing certain individuals’ assets, as well as restricting travel to Japan.