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Germany says blocked $7 mln worth of defence exports to Russia

Source: Reuters - Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:15 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* 69 export applications worth 5 mln euros suspended

* Goods affected in controlled categories of handguns, tanks, tear gas

* German manufacturers affected by suspension not named

By Alexandra Hudson

BERLIN, April 24 (Reuters) - Germany has suspended 5 million euros ($7 million) worth of defence equipment exports to Russia in light of Moscow's actions in Ukraine, and will halt the transfer of already licensed goods in "critical cases", according to Germany's Economy Ministry.

The ministry made the disclosure in response to questions from the opposition Greens party, which the Greens made available on Thursday.

It said 69 export applications were affected. Berlin first announced the suspension of defence exports to Russia last month, but gave no further details.

"Because of the current political circumstances, no export licences for defence goods for Russia are being granted. Furthermore, Germany has launched a study into what can be done about export licences previously granted," the ministry said.

"In critical cases Germany will work to ensure that the goods in question are not exported," it added, without elaborating.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned Moscow's stance over Ukraine and joined other European leaders and the United States in imposing visa bans and assets freezes. But parts of the German business community have warned against imposing broader economic sanctions.

The ministry declined to identify the German manufacturers involved, but named the official categories of goods affected - handguns, munitions, targeting devices, armoured personnel carriers or tank equipmetn, protective armour and agents such as tear gas, explosives, military electrical equipment, infra-red sensors and military software.

Germany in March stopped defence contractor Rheinmetall from delivering a combat simulation kit to Moscow, saying it considered the export unacceptable given political events.

The ministry said that between 2005-2013 no German-made conflict weapons were sent to Russia, although it did send defence equipment worth more than half a billion euros.

CRITICISM BY GREENS, SENSITIVE ISSUE

The Greens criticised the scale of Germany's defence equipment sales to Russia and urged Berlin to push for a European-wide embargo on arms sales to the country.

"The number of approved munitions exports to Russia over the past years is alarmingly high," said Greens lawmaker Agnieszka Brugger.

"The Ukraine crisis has made clear yet again that arms exports to non-direct allies are highly problematic. Perceived partners can very rapidly turn into adversaries who massively endanger peace and stability in the region," she added.

"More than half of German arms exports now go to non-direct allies. That is highly risky and irresponsible."

Non-direct ally is a term that in German is loosely used to denote countries that are not members of NATO.

Arms sales are a sensitive issue in Germany because of the country's Nazi past and the role of its arms makers in fuelling 19th and 20th century wars. Sales of equipment to Gulf states, for example, are coming under increasing scrutiny, and the arms industry is unsettled by growing criticism of German exports.

Germany's national security council, which includes Merkel and the ministers of economy, defence, development and foreign affairs, has to approve such deals and the details of its decisions are not made public. ($1 = 0.7231 Euros) (Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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