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UKRAINE

French finance minister: We will bring about collapse of the Russian economy

The French finance minister has warned "we will bring about the collapse of the Russian economy" with sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

French finance minister: We will bring about collapse of the Russian economy
France's Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire made the prediction on Franceinfo, a day after France, the EU and others said they would impose a new round of sanctions on Russia.

The balance of power in the sanctions stand-off between the European Union and Russia is “totally” in favour of the EU which “is in the process of discovering its own economic power”, he said.

The French finance minister is already in the process of drawing up a list of oligarch-owned assets in France, including yachts, property and bank accounts, for seizure.

READ ALSO Visa, flights bans and property seizure: How EU sanctions against Russia will affect France

On Monday, the EU added top Kremlin-linked oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman to its sanctions blacklist.

Among the high-profile names were close Putin allies Igor Sechin, head of state oil giant Rosneft, and Nikolay Tokarev, boss of pipeline mammoth Transneft.

Three men ranked within Russia’s 10 top richest by Forbes were also added: metals magnate Alexei Mordashov, tycoon Alisher Usmanov, and businessman and Putin friend Gennady Timchenko.

Le Maire said the total amount of Russian assets being frozen amounted to “almost 1,000 billion dollars”.

After the Russian central bank raised its key interest rate to 20 percent on Monday, “companies can only borrow at high rates”, Le Maire said.

Le Maire acknowledged that ordinary Russians would also suffer from the impact of the sanctions, “but we don’t know how we can handle this differently”.

Le Maire said he would talk to France’s two energy giants TotalEnergies and Engie in the coming days to decide on their involvement in Russian energy projects.

There was now “a problem of principle” with any collaboration with people close to Putin, Le Maire said.

His remarks, which came after other energy majors including Shell and BP announced that they would pull out of Russia, cause Engie’s share price to slump by five percent in early Paris bourse trading Tuesday.

Engie is notably involved in Russia’s pipeline project Nord Stream 2, which Germany last week put on hold when Moscow recognised two Ukrainian breakaway republics.

An aide to French President Emmanuel Macron also told reporters Monday that the imposition of new sanctions, which are to “raise the cost” of Putin’s war, was “a priority”.

 
 

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IMMIGRATION

French police clear Channel migrant camps after violence leaves one dead

Police dismantled a camp housing hundreds of migrants near Dunkirk in northern France on Wednesday after one person was killed and three wounded in suspected score-settling between smugglers, authorities said.

French police clear Channel migrant camps after violence leaves one dead

Around 500 people, mainly Iraqi Kurds, had been living at the wooded site in Loon-Plage, near a canal that often serves as a key launching point for boats hoping to cross the English Channel for Britain.

Buses stood by to bring the migrants to shelters, but most left instead on foot, carrying what belongings they could.

On Monday night, one migrant was shot and killed and another wounded by what volunteer aid workers described as machine gun fire, the day after two others were also shot and wounded, one seriously.

Ammunition from “weapons of war” were found, Dunkirk’s state prosecutor Sebastian Pieve had told AFP on Tuesday, and a clash between rival smuggling groups was “a theory, but it’s not easy to establish”.

“But it’s certain that human trafficking is the backdrop to this,” he said.

Dawan, a 32-year-old Kurd, would say only “mafia, mafia” when asked by AFP about the shootings.

He said he had recently paid €1,600 to a smuggler who said he would get him to England after spending five months in France, but the man disappeared the next day.

Claire Millot of the Salam migrant aid group said most volunteer associations had quit operating at Loon-Plage out of security fears, adding that Africans and other nationalities had recently been seen in an area usually occupied mainly by Kurds.

More than 7,000 migrants have managed to cross the busy shipping lane and reach the British coast since January, after the number of arrivals tripled to over 28,000 last year — which saw at least 30 migrants die while trying.

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