Sanctions against Russia: who are they hitting?

Punitive measures against Russia are not only cutting off Russians' access to Western products but in some cases also to education and cultural exchange. Many Russians who oppose Russia's course are having problems organising their departure from the country. The press discusses whether the sanctions are hitting their mark.

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Der Spiegel (DE) /

Punish the Kremlin, not Russia

Der Spiegel calls for a more selective approach with the sanctions:

“A whole country, it sometimes seems, is being held liable for the crimes of its president and elites. This is not only morally but also strategically problematic: it weakens precisely those pro-democratic forces in Russia that will be particularly important in the coming months and years. ... The idea must be to punish Putin and his regime, not the entire country. For that reason it would be helpful to finally put a stop to the ongoing raw materials deals with the Kremlin. Paradoxically, with the hike in oil and gas prices Putin continues to earn money from his war. What is not so helpful is when Visa and Mastercard punish the citizens of Russia by suspending their services.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Remain a beacon of hope

Estonian universities should continue to accept students from Russia and Belarus, says Eesti Päevaleht:

“Many Estonians still remember how important contacts with the free world were under Soviet occupation. They gave us hope and counteracted Sovietisation. Estonian universities should be case-specific in their approach. There are Russian youths who should be able to flee their homeland, which increasingly resembles North Korea. And there are opportunists who simply want to go abroad to avoid military service. And there are no doubt also those who are sent by Russian secret services to spy. Estonia should try - insofar as security considerations allow - to remain a desirable free world for Russians and Belarusians.”

El País (ES) /

Closer to North Korea than to freedom

El País interprets the withdrawal of McDonald's and other major Western companies as a first step towards an unfree, dark Russia:

“When in these days companies like McDonald's, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi follow in the footsteps of many other flagships of capitalism that are leaving, this is not the erasure of a symbol of a wild and failed opening of the country, but the sounding of the alarm for a return to dark times for the ordinary babushkas. ... Russia is on the brink of bankruptcy and, unlike in 1990, when Soviet Russians demonstrated for independence and democracy in every corner of the country, today they are subjugated, imprisoned, uninformed and numbed. Closer to North Korea than to freedom.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

The Kremlin left to nurse its feelings

Beyond its military Russia is in ruins, says Novaya Gazeta:

“Putin's Russia has already taken a beating on the economic, financial, technological and information fronts. ... Less tangible but more significant is that Russia and its leader have suffered a severe and arguably permanent moral knockout: complete isolation from the free world, 'rogue state' and other such terms - zero sympathy and zero trust ... The state power will continue to put the thumbscrews on the people, nurse its terrible rage at the accursed West and develop complexes. The main irritation will be the successes and blossoming of the unconquered neighbour Ukraine.”