Ian Smillie, a leader in the campaign to end blood diamonds, is the author of Blood on the Stone: Greed Corruption and War in the Global Diamond Trade and Diamonds.
The increasingly tough economic sanctions placed on Russia and its oligarchs are designed to send powerful messages to President Vladimir Putin about the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. But one area has so far escaped serious attention: the Russian diamond trade.
Russia is one the world’s largest producers of rough diamonds. Most are exported, earning Russia about US$3-billion every year in the foreign exchange that is becoming scarcer as sanctions start to bite.
More than 90 per cent of its diamonds are mined and exported by Alrosa, a publicly traded company that is one-third owned by the Russian government. Russian oligarchs are also heavily involved, including its CEO, Sergei Sergeyevich Ivanov, whose father is a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and a close ally of Mr. Putin.
Alrosa has already caught the attention of the White House, which on Feb. 24 placed restrictions on its ability to raise money in the United States and imposed travel restrictions on its CEO. This is a very small first step.