China protests EU sanctions on firms with links to Russia’s war in Ukraine

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China on Tuesday said it had protested to the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on 19 Chinese companies for abetting what the West believes is Beijing’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A list published in the EU’s Official Journal on Monday includes several companies located in Hong Kong as well as two global satellite giants.

The firms are now subject to drastic restrictions over sales of “dual-use goods and technology” that could be used for the “enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector.”

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Beijing hit back on Tuesday, saying it opposed “unilateral sanctions with no basis in international law” and had lodged “stern representations” with the EU.

“The development of normal exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and Russian businesses does not target any third party,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

“We urge the European side to revoke the sanctions, and will take necessary measures to resolutely uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises,” she added.

The EU’s 14th package of sanctions against Russia added 61 new companies to the list of entities accused of directly “supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex” in the war in Ukraine, bringing the total to 675 firms.

Among the newly added companies are two major players in the Chinese satellite industry involved in the sale of satellites and satellite imagery to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.

In October, an AFP investigation revealed that Wagner in 2022 signed a contract worth more than $30 million with Chinese firm Beijing Yunze Technology Co Ltd to acquire two satellites and use their images.

The contract was signed in November 2022, more than half a year into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in which the Wagner group under its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was playing a key role on the battlefield.

The two high-resolution satellites belonged to Chang Guang Satellite Technology, a leading global satellite company which was the unit to be added to the EU’s sanctions list.

Another company named Monday was Head Aerospace Technology, which sells satellite images and was placed on a US sanctions list in 2023 for supplying the Wagner Group.

Even if China does not deliver weapons directly to Russia, the United States and Europe accuse it of selling components and equipment to Moscow’s military industry -- allegations Beijing strenuously denies.

Russia-based companies make up about half of the 61 entities added to the EU’s list Monday.

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