Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to global soul-searching about overreliance on Russian oil and gas, but another major Russian export is also in the spotlight: diamonds.
The country is the world’s largest supplier of small diamonds. For years, engagement rings, earrings and pendants for sale in the United States and beyond have included diamonds mined from deep in the permafrost in Russia’s northeast.
Now, the United States and other countries are taking action that could officially label Russian diamonds as “conflict diamonds,” claiming their sale helps pay for Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine.
“Proceeds from that production are benefiting the same state that is conducting a premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war,” George Cajati, a State Department official, wrote in a letter in May to the chair of the Kimberley Process, an international organization created by a United Nations resolution to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds.
The European Union, Canada and other nations in the West, as well as Ukraine and several activist organizations, have joined in similar calls for a discussion about the invasion’s implications.
Also known as blood diamonds, conflict diamonds are commonly thought of as gems sold to finance war. The Kimberley Process defines them more specifically as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.”
But “rebel movement” does not accurately describe Russia, and officials there object to labeling the diamonds as conflict gems. They chalk up the effort by Western governments to do so as “political demagogy,” according to an emailed statement from the press service of Russia’s Ministry of Finance.