David O’Sullivan, the European Union’s Special Envoy for Sanctions, embarked on a two-day visit to Uzbekistan. Following a meeting with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, O’Sullivan conducted a press conference where he detailed the objectives of his mission.

At the start of the event, the special envoy recalled that the sanctions devised by the G7 states and the US against Russia had only one goal — to undermine its ability to wage aggressive war against Ukraine.

“I want to stress: we do not intend to impose sanctions on third countries, on Uzbekistan in particular, we also have no desire to interfere with Uzbekistan’s development and its trade relations with other countries, including Russia,” David O’Sullivan said.

The EU’s concern is the possibility of circumventing the sanctions imposed on Russia through third countries. “Recently we have seen unusual trade deals and the fact that products made in EU countries that are under sanctions are somehow getting into Russia through third countries,” the special envoy said.

He stressed that an increase in imports of sanctioned goods from EU countries has been observed in a number of states. “That is why I have been to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Kazakhstan before coming to Uzbekistan. I also intend to visit Georgia, Armenia and Serbia. I would like to emphasize once again that Uzbekistan is only one of the visited countries,” the EU special envoy said.

David O’Sullivan said that in recent months the EU had a fruitful exchange of information in particular with the Customs Committee and the Central Bank of Uzbekistan on financial issues. “We have been able in this dialogue to resolve some issues in a cooperative manner,” he said.

“We respect Uzbekistan’s desire to remain neutral [in the issue of Russia’s war against Ukraine] and, nevertheless, were very encouraged and grateful for assurances that Uzbekistan is against having its territory used to circumvent the sanctions imposed. We understand that it is a political choice of the state”, David O’Sullivan said.

He noted that in the course of working contacts, the EU handed over to the Uzbek side a list of goods produced in EU countries that have dual or military applications and “contribute to the ability of the Russian military machine to conduct a murderous war against the people of Ukraine.”

He said the goods in question were high-tech block circuits, microchips and optical equipment that could be used for weapons, guidance systems, artillery and cruise missiles. “These are the products we find in trophy military equipment seized from the Russian military. We know that they are using a number of products and their parts for weapons to kill Ukrainians. And that is why we asked that special attention be paid to the movement of exactly these products across the border,” the EU special envoy explained. He added that he was not referring to such products produced in Uzbekistan.

“We asked our Uzbek colleagues to pay special attention to the possible movement through Uzbekistan of the list of products [made in the EU], because we have recently seen an increase of 126 percent in the export of goods from this list through the territory of Uzbekistan — which is quite significant,” David O’Sullivan said.

He added that the EU, understanding the concerns that sanctions can cause for businesses, is holding a two-day workshop for government organisations and the private sector to explain the nature of these sanctions, “so people know which ones to worry about and which ones not to worry about”.

“We hope to continue this dialogue in the future because we think that, unfortunately, these sanctions will last for a long time, many years. Even assuming that in the next month the hostilities in Ukraine will end (for which we have no evidence), there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. These include the investigation of war crimes, reparations and the rebuilding of Ukraine’s destroyed infrastructure. In other words, we will have to learn to live with these sanctions. Therefore, we would not like this issue to stand in the way of bilateral relations between Uzbekistan and the EU, on which we are looking with great inspiration and hope”, David O’Sullivan stressed.

When asked about the potential possibility of Uzbek businesses falling under the sanctions imposed against Russia, the special envoy explained that in this case we can only talk about illegal circumvention of sanctions imposing a ban on re-export of European products from the aforementioned list to Russia.

“If any illegal transactions take place, if, say, we see that some Uzbek economic entities are involved in this, of course they will fall under sanctions. But again, our goal is not to impose sanctions on the economy of Uzbekistan. We are only talking about illegal transactions that help to circumvent the sanctions that have been imposed. And trade and economic relations between Uzbekistan and Russia are an internal matter of the two states,” the EU special envoy said.

He again elaborated on situations that could trigger an EU reaction: “If the products on the sanctions list are produced in Uzbekistan and delivered to Russia, there is no problem with this. If they are exported from third countries (outside the EU — ed.) and again re-exported to Russia, there is no problem with this either. The problem arises when sanctioned products from this list, produced by the EU, are imported from the territory of the EU and get into Russia through the territory of Uzbekistan. This is the illegal circumvention of sanctions.

David O’Sullivan said he was “very impressed with the monitoring system that exists in Uzbekistan in the area of controlling financial flows, trade turnover”. “I am confident that the Uzbek authorities will find a way to effectively monitor the possible re-export of these products from the sanctions list,” he added.

The Special Envoy noted that the EU only asks the Uzbek authorities to strengthen the control of such products, and how the country does it is its own business, the EU only explains that the control measures should be introduced as soon as possible because we are talking about military action that kills lives.

“We hear understanding, and we are discussing ways to make it happen in the best possible way. We hope that as a result of our mission very soon we will see a reduction in these figures, statistics on re-exports of goods from the aforementioned list,” the EU special envoy concluded.


As we reported earlier, it was often highlighted in the Western press that Russia had sharply increased its trade with several countries, including Central Asia, in the past year.

In March, Bloomberg reported that the European Union planned to target countries that had sharply increased imports of advanced European technology and other goods that Russia might use for military purposes in Ukraine. This might include Turkey, the UAE, Kazakhstan and other countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

A week later, Reuters reported that Russian companies in recent weeks have “flooded” their Kazakh partners with requests to help them import necessary goods to circumvent the sanctions. This has involved shipping products ranging from phones, electronics and rare-earth metals to bank card materials.

Financial Times reported that Kazakhstan will start tracking goods that pass through the country for re-export to Russia in April. The measures will come amid a Western drive to prevent foreign companies and individuals from helping Russia circumvent sanctions, the paper noted.

The Telegraph, citing a confidential document obtained by the paper, reported that the EU is discussing plans to impose restrictive measures against countries that help Russia acquire dual-use technology. These include washing machines, used cars and cameras exported from EU countries to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.