France says aim of sanctions is 'collapse' of Russian economy

By: AFP
Published: 06:43 PM, 1 Mar, 2022
France says aim of sanctions is 'collapse' of Russian economy
Caption: France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
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France said on Tuesday that Western sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine will cause the Russian economy to collapse.

"We will bring about the collapse of the Russian economy," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told the Franceinfo broadcaster a day after France, the EU and others said they would impose a new round of sanctions on Russia.

"The economic and financial balance of power is totally in favour of the European Union which is in the process of discovering its own economic power," he said.

"We are waging total economic and financial war on Russia," he said.

On Monday, the EU added top Kremlin-linked oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman to its sanctions blacklist.

Among the high-profile names were close Putin allies Igor Sechin, head of state oil giant Rosneft, and Nikolay Tokarev, boss of pipeline mammoth Transneft. 

Three men ranked within Russia's 10 top richest by Forbes were also added: metals magnate Alexei Mordashov, tycoon Alisher Usmanov, and businessman and Putin friend Gennady Timchenko.

"The oligarchs need to watch out because the list of oligarchs that have been targeted by the EU is very large," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the BFM channel late Monday. 

He said they were being hit "not only in their share portfolios but also with the possibility -- and we will do it in France -- of asset seizures. 

"So if I was an oligarch, in Russia or France, I'd be worried."

Le Drian added: "I hope he (Putin) realises how the balance of power has shifted and that he has lost the information war."  

French energy 

Le Maire said the total amount of Russian assets being frozen amounted to "almost 1,000 billion dollars".

After the Russian central bank raised its key interest rate to 20 percent on Monday, "companies can only borrow at high rates", Le Maire said.

He acknowledged that ordinary Russians would also suffer from the impact of the sanctions, "but we don't know how we can handle this differently".

Le Maire said he would talk to France's two energy giants TotalEnergies and Engie in the coming days to decide on their involvement in Russian energy projects.

There was now "a problem of principle" with any collaboration with people close to Putin, Le Maire said.

His remarks, which came after other energy majors including Shell and BP announced that they would pull out of Russia, caused Engie's share price to slump by five percent in early Paris bourse trading Tuesday.

Engie is notably involved in Russia's pipeline project Nord Stream 2, which Germany last week put on hold when Moscow recognised two Ukrainian breakaway republics.

TotalEnergies pledged Tuesday that it "will not invest any new capital in new projects in Russia" -- but did not say whether it would pull out of the country.

The group makes between three and five percent of its annual sales in Russia and owns a 19.4-percent stake in gas group Novatek and 20 percent in Yamal LNG, a liquefied gas specialist, among others.

The group said it approves "the scale of sanctions put in place by Europe" against Russia and pledged to implement them.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.