Kazakhstan denies Russia sanctions busting

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Kazakhstan denied Thursday that it was violating Western sanctions despite a sharp increase in re-exports to Russia of goods that could be put to military use.

The denial followed accusations from European and US officials that Central Asia’s largest economy was serving as a conduit for Moscow to obtain goods in violation of sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

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“We don’t allow our territory or companies to evade sanctions” imposed on Russia, Kazakh Senate speaker Maulen Ashimbayev was quoted by official Kazinform news agency.

“We don’t violate Western sanctions,” said Ashimbayev, whose position as the speaker puts him second in line to the presidency.

A number of former Soviet states plus China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are suspected of helping Russia obtain goods that it can no longer import directly due to Western sanctions.

Companies in these countries import goods and then re-export them to Russia. Even products such as refrigerators, computer printers and calculators can have their microchips stripped out of them and used in weapons.

EBRD chief economist Beata Javorcik said earlier this week that the regional development bank has seen West European exports to Russia being shifted to former Soviet nations.

“If you look at Western European exports to Russia, they... dropped by about 60 percent, and suddenly you see exports from Western Europe to Central Asia and Caucuses going up, and in turn these countries sell more to the Russian market,” she told AFP.

“These increases are particularly pronounced in goods that are fully or partially subject to sanctions,” she added.

Kazakhstan, a close economic and military ally of Russia with which it shares a 7,500-kilometre (4,650-mile) border, says it put in place in April an online tracking system for goods.

Western nations, when considering tightening sanctions on Russia further, have also been confronted with how to avoid secondary effects on nations like Kazakhstan to avoid pushing them closer into Moscow’s orbit.

At the beginning of the month, the European Commission adopted an 11th Russian sanctions package and for the first time it included companies in Armenia, China, Iran, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan as it sought to crack down on sanctions busting.

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