Almost one third of the diamonds destined for the Antwerp trade come from Russia. Experts believe that the Russian diamond trade is being used to finance the war in Ukraine.

An estimated one-third of the rough diamonds in Antwerp come from Alrosa. Alrosa is 66% owned by the Russian state and the Siberian republic of Yakutia.

Alrosa’s profits help finance the war in Ukraine. Sergei Ivanov, the CEO of Alrosa, was therefore sanctioned by the United States immediately after the invasion. His father and namesake Sergey Ivanov is considered one of President Vladimir Putin’s most loyal allies.

Persistent lobbying

But the EU sanctions packages have always spared the diamond trade. Diamond sales have actually increased since the invasion. When Poland, the Baltic states and Ireland presented new sanctions proposals in September, Alrosa was targeted. At the last minute, the company disappeared from the list, The Guardian reported.

In the EU meetings, the sanctions proposals still face persistent lobbying from Belgium. Sanctions against diamonds would backfire, the Belgians argued in the EU negotiations. As recently as March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski incurred the wrath of parliament when he said, “Peace is worth much more than diamonds.” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) denies any lobbying. We only communicate “the position of Belgium“, says the government.

The Antwerp diamond lobby AWDC admits to actively lobbying against the sanctions. They would have a negative impact both economically and ethically. “In Belgium and the EU, they would cost jobs. They wouldn’t hurt Russia. The diamonds would just go to India and Dubai,” says spokesman Tom Neys. Sanctions would also drive the trade underground and encourage money laundering. It is an illusion to think that sanctions would slow down Russian diamond sales, as NGOs claim.

There is criticism from civil society. “Belgium has always been a pioneer in the fight against conflict diamonds,” says Filip Reyniers of the research institute IPIS. “Russian diamonds are financing the war in Ukraine. If we can’t call it a conflict diamond, what does the term still mean? When we wanted to regulate arms sales, we were also told that other countries would continue to sell arms.