A new research shows the economic sanctions against Russia by the European Union have already cost the European countries around €30 billion.
The research – which was carried out by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) – showed EU exports to Russia declined annually by 15.7 percent since 2014 when the sanctions were put into place.
Up to 40 percent of that decrease was due to sanctions, it said.
The WIFO further calculated that EU exports to Russia nosedived from €120 billion four years ago to €72 billion in 2016.
According to the research which was conducted at the request of the European Parliament, Cyprus was hit most as exports to Russia plunged 34.5 percent over the past two years. Greece suffered a 23.2 percent fall; Croatia’s exports were down 21 percent.
The researchers said the impact of sanctions was most damaging during the first year, as “not much progress has been made in switching trade flows to other countries,” reported the website of the Russian news television channel Russia Today.
Brussels first introduced sanctions on Moscow in 2014, after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea held a referendum to break from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation amid suspicions that the proceedings were carried out under Russia’s influence.
The scope of sanctions then gradually expanded as the European Union and the United States kept adding on to the pressure against Moscow over its alleged support for pro-Russian forces in the Russian-speaking Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, who were seeking greater autonomy from the Kiev government.
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, which was initiated by Kiev after it deployed forces to crack down on pro-democracy autonomy-seekers in the Russian-speaking region, has so far left more than 10,000 people dead.
U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov met Saturday in Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said. But no details have emerged from the closed-door meeting.
Before the meeting Volker tweeted the meeting would focus on “how to catalyze Minsk implementation and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
A 2015 deal signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk called for a cease-fire between Russian-backed separatists fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has left more than 10,000 dead. The deal has been often violated.
Earlier, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the talks were intended to “synchronize watches” between the two counties.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft also earlier said Volker and Surkov might discuss a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the hotbed Donbas region at the meeting.
Volker had refused to meet with Surkov in Russia and Surkov is barred from European Union countries under sanctions for Russia’s role in Ukraine.