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This week, the European Union added a Russian diamond miner, the largest in the world, to its list of nearly 2,000 individuals and entities facing sanctions in the context of the Ukraine war. Alrosa, the Associated Press explained, is responsible for 90 percent of diamond production in Russia, making it an “important part of an economic sector that is providing substantial revenue,” according to the bloc. The sanctions include freezing Alrosa’s assets in the EU and barring trade with EU countries and clients. Its chief executive officer, Pavel Marinychev, was already hit with a European travel ban. The new sanctions, which the bloc framed within the renewal of their “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine, came amid escalating violence in the conflict.
Also this week:
- On Saturday, more than two dozen civilians died in the shelling of the Russian border city of Belgorod. The Kremlin accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack, one of the deadliest against Russia. Ukrainian security sources told the BBC it was in retaliation for Russian missile strikes that killed 39 people a day earlier, adding that “the incompetent work of Russian air defense” was to blame for the death toll in Belgorod. In response to what he called a “terrorist act,” a visibly furious Vladimir Putin promised that strikes in Ukraine would intensify. In the early hours of Jan. 1, Russia launched 90 drones carrying explosives at Ukraine, the Associated Press reported. At least nine people were killed across the country, including in the regions of Odesa and Kherson. On Tuesday, the two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, were hit by some of Russia’s most powerful weapons, including hypersonic missiles that could evade Ukrainian air defense systems, the New York Times reported.
- Meanwhile, the southwestern Russian village of Petropavlovsk was also hit by missiles, the Kyiv Post reported. Russian army officials admitted it was an accident, while the local governor said there were no casualties. However, villagers complained that a dozen houses and a street were damaged. After the bombardment, Ukraine and Russia agreed to the largest prisoner swap since the beginning of the war, the Guardian reported. The deal, mediated by the United Arab Emirates which maintains close relations with Moscow, will free 230 Ukrainians and 248 Russians. The respite is likely only temporary: a Ukrainian Air Force official said on local television that Russia needed four days to prepare for the next series of mass strikes.