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Estonia urges closing of sanctions loopholes, including cryptocurrency

By Simon Lewis and Andrius Sytas

TALLINN, March 8 (Reuters) – Meeting top U.S.
diplomat Antony Blinken on Tuesday, Estonia’s prime minister made a plea to shut loopholes in international measures against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, including on cryptocurrencies that may be used to evade sanctions.

The U.S secretary of state was in Tallinn, his final stop of a tour of Washington’s Baltic allies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who fear Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Ukraine in trying to redraw the borders of Europe.

All Russian and Belarus banks must be removed from the international SWIFT payments messaging system, جهاز تعدين عملة الهيليوم while cryptocurrencies should face restrictions, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said.

“Our focus must be on full isolation of Russia from the free world,” she told a joint news conference with Blinken.

“Putin’s violence must be in correlation with further sanctions and also isolation decisions… We will keep finding new tools in our toolbox until Putin’s war machine has been paralysed.”

Baltic leaders have in recent days called for an embargo on Russian oil and gas to choke off Moscow’s most important source of export revenue.

“With regard to a potential oil embargo … this is something as I mentioned that we’ve been discussing within the administration,” Blinken told the news conference.

U.S.

President Joe Biden was expected to announce a ban on imports of Russian oil and other energy on Tuesday in retaliation for the invasion, sources familiar with the matter have said.

If both Europe and the United States were to ban Russian oil, this could send the global price of crude soaring to $200 per barrel, double the pre-war level and far above the current price of some $130, consultancy Rystad Energy said on Tuesday.

Adding to the pressure on prices, a deal to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers remains mired in uncertainty following Russia’s demands for a guarantee that sanctions over the Ukraine conflict will not hurt its trade with Tehran.

“We continue to work to see if we can come back to mutual compliance with Iran on the deal. Russia continues to be engaged in those efforts and it has its own interest in ensuring that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Blinken said.

Moscow describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to disarm its neighbour and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext to invade a country of 44 million people. (Reporting by Simon Lewis in Tallinn and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, editing by Terje Solsvik, Gwladys Fouche and Nick Macfie)