Despite recurring criticism, Belgium continues to import Russian diamonds
Despite ongoing moral pressure, Belgium's trade in Russian diamonds continues. This is according to an extensive investigation by the British newspaper 'The Guardian'. Both Poland and the Baltic states are demanding an end to the trade.
Although Ukrainian President Zelensky already warned Belgium of its negligent action against the diamond trade at the start of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, gems are still being sold. According to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, which does not want to stop trading with Russia, 10,000 jobs would be lost. Moreover, Russian diamonds would be needed for medical items such as surgical eye scales.
In August this year, the trade already accounted for 1.2 billion euros.
About 25 per cent of all rough diamonds passing through Antwerp come from Russia, with Alrosa, a diamond company owned by the Russian state, leading the way. Heading the company, Sergei Sergeevich Ivanov was one of the first oligarchs to face sanctions abroad. When it was apparent that Alrosa also sponsored a submarine for the Russian army, calls to end the diamond trade sounded all the louder. Nevertheless, diamond traders in Antwerp seem unwilling to comply.
In 2021, Belgium imported 1.8 billion euros worth of diamonds from Russia. In August this year, the trade already accounted for 1.2 billion euros. Yet there has been a remarkable drop since June.
"Currently, the possibility of reducing that trade further to zero is being explored."
In his reaction to 'The Guardian', the spokesman of Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) referred to the sharp drop. "Currently, the possibility of reducing that trade further to zero is being explored, but that has to be done through a collective approach," the spokesman said. "If we are serious about stopping the flow of money to Russia, it can only be done if we also stop the buying and selling of polished diamonds, not just the trade in rough diamonds."
Poland and the Baltic states are pushing for a complete halt to diamond trade with Russia. They want diamonds to be included in the next sanctions package. Belgium claims to have no objection to including diamond trade in the sanctions package. But whenever Alrosa was on the draft sanctions list, the name disappeared from the document that was eventually signed. Exactly how this could happen has not yet been figured out.
#FlandersNewsService | The logo of Russia's partly state-owned diamond producer Alrosa is seen at its office in Moscow on April 27, 2022.
© Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP