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S'pore to impose sanctions against Russia, 'in concert with many other like-minded countries': Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE — In a rare move for Singapore, the Republic will impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including export controls on items that can be used as weapons to inflict harm or subjugate the Ukrainians, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

S'pore to impose sanctions against Russia, 'in concert with many other like-minded countries': Balakrishnan

Protestors holding placards stand in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin to demonstrate for peace in Ukraine on Feb 27, 2022.

  • Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore will also block certain Russian banks and financial transactions connected to Russia
  • The specific measures are being worked out and details will be announced shortly
  • Singapore must expect that these measures will come at some cost and implications for businesses and citizens
  • Singapore has rarely acted to impose sanctions on other countries in the absence of binding decisions or directions by the United Nations Security Council, said Dr Balakrishnan
  • But it decided to do so given the unprecedented gravity of the Russian attack on Ukraine

SINGAPORE — In a rare move for Singapore, the Republic will impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including export controls on items that can be used as weapons to inflict harm or subjugate the Ukrainians, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

Giving a ministerial statement on the situation in Ukraine in Parliament on Monday (Feb 28), Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore will also block certain Russian banks and financial transactions connected to Russia.

The specific measures are being worked out and details will be announced shortly, he added.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore must expect that these measures will come at some cost and implications for Singapore businesses and citizens. 

"However, unless we as a country stand up for principles that are the very foundation for the independence and sovereignty of smaller nations, our own right to exist and prosper as a nation may similarly be called into question one day.”

Ukraine's health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It also said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, had been wounded.

Dr Balakrishnan said that Singapore has always complied fully with sanctions and decisions of the United Nations Security Council, which is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, but has rarely acted to impose sanctions on other countries in the absence of binding decisions or directions by the council.

"However, given the unprecedented gravity of the Russian attack on Ukraine, and the unsurprising veto by Russia of a draft Security Council Resolution, Singapore intends to act in concert with many other like-minded countries to impose appropriate sanctions and restrictions against Russia,” he added.

He also called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “clear and gross” violation of international norms that sets a “completely unacceptable” precedent.

“This is an existential issue for us. Ukraine is much smaller than Russia, but it is much bigger than Singapore,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that a world order based on the principle that “might is right” or where “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” would be profoundly inimical to the security and survival of small states.

"We cannot accept one country attacking another without justification, arguing that its independence was the result of 'historical errors and crazy decisions'. Such a rationale would go against the internationally recognised legitimacy and territorial integrity of many countries, including Singapore."

DRAWING IMPORTANT LESSONS

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore can draw important lessons from the crisis in Ukraine, noting that while international law and diplomatic principles are essential, they are not sufficient.

He pointed to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which was supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s security by three nuclear powers — Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom — in exchange for its surrender of a large nuclear arsenal it had inherited from the Soviet Union.

“But agreements are only meaningful if the parties respect them and if they can be enforced. The invasion of Ukraine demonstrates how quickly a vulnerable country can be overrun, especially when confronting a larger and more powerful opponent. 

“This is the acute reality for all small countries and Singapore is no exception,” he said.

Hence, Singapore cannot depend on others for protection and must never lose the ability to defend itself, which is why Singapore has consistently invested in building up the strength and credibility of the Singapore Armed Forces and maintaining national service as a fundamental element of its nationhood, said Dr Balakrishnan.

He also noted that Singapore works hard to maintain good relations with all its neighbours and big powers, given how easy it is for a small country to be “caught up in the geopolitical games” of these powers. 

“When situations arise, our assessments and our actions are based on clearly enunciated and consistently held principles, that are in our own long-term national interests. Instead of choosing sides, we uphold principles," he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday took to Facebook to reiterate the points brought up by Dr Balakrishnan in Parliament.

“What is happening in Ukraine now is important to us. Singapore strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and affirms that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected,” he wrote.

Mr Lee added that the lessons for Singapore, both now and eight years ago when then-Foreign Minister K Shanmugam addressed the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine by Russia, are stark and that when treaties and diplomacy fail, Singapore cannot rely on others for protection and lose the capability to defend itself.

“National Service and a strong, operationally ready SAF is our best deterrent against aggressors,” he said.

“As a small country, we strive to maintain good relations with all countries big and small. We do not choose sides, but chart our own course based on consistent principles and long-term national interests.

"Finally, we must remain a united and cohesive nation. Domestic politics must stop at our shores.”

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO DEBATE RESOLUTION

Dr Balakrishnan said that three days ago, a draft resolution was presented at the UN Security Council, which is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, to condemn Russia's aggression against Ukraine. 

As expected, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed that resolution so it was not passed, even though 11 of the 15 Security Council members voted in support of it.

The remaining three members — namely China, India and the United Arab Emirates — abstained.

Dr Balakrishnan added that the UN General Assembly will be debating a similar resolution later on Monday, and while these resolutions are not subject to a veto, they are not binding. 

"However, as a responsible member of the international community, Singapore will comply with the spirit and the letter of the UN General Assembly decision.” 

Dr Balakrishnan on Monday also said three Singaporeans have left Ukraine since the invasion, and there are eight others still in the country that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is in contact with. MFA is still trying to contact one more Singaporean. 

In doing its part, the Singapore Red Cross has pledged a contribution of US$100,000 (S$135,900) to support communities affected by the crisis in Ukraine.

This will provide essential relief supplies such as hygiene kits, family kits and household kits for the vulnerable who have been displaced by the conflict, said Dr Balakrishnan.

He added that the organisation has also launched a public fundraising appeal to support the upcoming massive humanitarian operations that will be needed and that the Singapore Government will contribute S$100,000 to this operation.

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Ukraine Russia Vivian Balakrishnan Parliament

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