German exports to Russia drop 62% as sanctions take over

German exports to Russia plunged 62.3% in March from the previous month, according to government statistics on Wednesday, as sanctions aimed at starving the Russian economy as punishment for President Vladimir V. Putin to invade Ukraine have caught on.

The European Union and the United States have imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Russia since the February 24 invasion and Brussels is expected to adopt a further package of measures, including a plan to ban oil, by the end of the week.

The sharp decline in exports to Russia reflects the close economic ties built between the two countries in recent decades. Many German companies, including Volkswagen, have stopped exporting their products to Russia.

But German companies still sold assets worth € 1 billion (about $ 1.06 billion) to Russia in March, as some companies not affected by the sanctions were reluctant to sever ties with the country. Packaged medicines are among the most important items that Russia continues to purchase from Germany. Along with food, seeds and medical equipment, they remained exempt from penalties.

Global chemical and healthcare giant Bayer has ceased all spending in Russia and Belarus, but continues to sell essential products in both countries. The company came under pressure from peace activists and pro-Ukrainian groups for its decision, which it defended in a statement citing its ethical responsibility.

“Withholding the health and agricultural products essential to civilian populations – such as cancer or cardiovascular treatments, health products for pregnant women and children, as well as seeds for growing food – would only multiply the ongoing toll of the war on human life”, the company said.

Overall, German exports for the month fell 3.3% from February, the Federal Statistical Office said. In contrast to March 2021, when the country was pulling out of a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, overall exports improved by more than 8%, he said.

According to the World Trade Organization, Germany is the third largest exporter in the world after China and the United States. The United States remains Germany’s most important market overseas, and Americans imported 3.2% more goods, worth € 11.5 billion, in March compared to the previous month.