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Ukrainian president takes aim at imports of Russian diamonds

AP – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Belgian lawmakers for more help and took aim at the continued import of Russian diamonds to Belgium’s port of Antwerp on Thursday.

Zelenskyy’s video address at the Parliament elicited a long round of warm applause.

De Croo assured Zelenskyy of Belgium’s resolute and long-lasting support. He announced new orders for weapons to be delivered to the war-torn country.

Zelenskyy thanked Belgium – a country of 11.5 million for its help, and for welcoming already 30,000 Ukrainian refugees who managed to escape the conflict.

But recalling the ordeal of the besieged city of Mariupol’s inhabitants, Zelenskyy also pointed to the continued importing of Russian rough diamonds to Antwerp, which is the world’s most important diamond trading hubs.

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo walks off the podium as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watches. PHOTO: AP

“There are people for whom Russian diamonds sometimes sold in Antwerp are more important,” he said through a translator speaking in French. “People for whom accepting Russian ships in their ports, and for whom the income from these ships is more important than our struggles.”

“I believe that peace is way more valuable than diamonds, than the deals sealed with Russia, than the Russian ships (allowed) in ports, than Russian oil and gas,” Zelenskyy added. “Help us. Do it, with weapons, sanctions, and the possibility to become members of the European Union (EU).”

According to The Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the official representative of the city’s diamond industry, 86 per cent of all rough diamonds mined worldwide are traded in Antwerp, making it the most important gateway to the world for Russian diamonds.

Diamond imports from Russia to the EU have not been targetted by the bloc’s sanctions so far.

De Croo said last week that Belgium is not opposed to sanctions that would have an impact on the diamonds sector, but said the EU should be careful not to take measures that would be more detrimental to the 27-nation bloc than to Russia.