Disinfo: EU sanctions against Russia are not democratic


The EU sanctions regime against Russia is not exactly democratic. One of the main causes of the anti-Russian sanctions was the Kerch Strait incident.

On 25 November 2019, Ukrainian military vessels violated Russian borders in the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov. Kyiv blamed Russian aggression for the incident and subsequently declared martial law in 10 regions of Ukraine, resulting in restrictions on citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms, including the right to vote.


Both of these claims - that EU sanctions are not democratic and that Ukraine was the aggressor in the Kerch Strait incident - are false.

This first claim is part of the pro-Kremlin media's ongoing disinformation efforts to delegitimise EU sanctions against Russia, which were initially a response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. According to international law, Crimea is part of Ukraine. Russia violated international law as well as the key principles of the European security framework by illegally annexing the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol.

It is false to say that the sanctions are undemocratic, as they are unanimously decided by the Council of the EU, which is comprised of democratically-elected heads of state and government from the EU28. Other examples of cases claiming that the sanctions are illegitimate and useless are available here and here.

Most recently, in March 2019, the EU has also applied new sanctions against Russia as a response to the Kerch Strait incident and Russia's violations of Ukraine's territorial integrity in the Sea of Azov. Specifically, the Council of the EU "added eight Russian officials to the list of those subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. These new listings have been adopted by the Council as a response to escalation in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov and the violations of international law by Russia, which used military force with no justification."

The claim that Ukraine was the aggressor in the Sea of Azov is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the Kerch Strait incident. On 25 November 2018, border patrol boats belonging to Russia’s FSB security service seized two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and their crews after shooting at them, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen. Russia argued that they were in Russian waters. However, a bilateral treaty between Russia and Ukraine, signed in 2003 and ratified by Russia in 2004, governs the use of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, which, according to the treaty, are considered to be the “internal waters” of both Russia and Ukraine. Further debunking by Bellingcat, DFRLab and Polygraph.


  • Reported in: Issue 154
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16/06/2019
  • Language/target audience: Czech
  • Country: Russia, Ukraine
  • Keywords: European Council, Azov sea, Kerch, EU, Anti-Russian, War in Ukraine, Russophobia, Sanctions, Europe
  • Outlet: Sputnik Czech


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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