The sanctions are not a blanket ban on all trade (despite the impression given by some parts of the media), and many key sectors for UK exporters - e.g. FMCG, construction equipment, most hi-tech products, luxury goods, legal, tax advisory or education services are in principle not affected.
The media has not surprisingly focused on the geopolitical and military aspects of recent events in Ukraine, including the tragedy of Flight MH 17 and the sanctions that have been imposed by the USA, EU and Russia. One message that is not being delivered, again perhaps not surprisingly, is that a substantial amount of business is still going on between the UK and Russia.
Of course, companies have to operate within the restrictions imposed by the sanctions and if your business is exporting foodstuffs, for example, Russia currently presents some real challenges. But the sanctions are not a blanket ban on all trade (despite the impression given by some parts of the media), and many key sectors for UK exporters - e.g. FMCG, construction equipment, most hi-tech products, luxury goods, legal, tax advisory or education services are in principle not affected. Companies need to do a bit more due diligence than previously to establish what sanctions could affect them, also on whether the organisation with which they are planning to do business is controlled by a sanctioned individual.
Funding for long-term projects may be harder to come by than it was, banks are more nervous about Russia and no-one knows for certain what will happen next. So, yes, sanctions are of course having an effect on the whole business environment. But UK companies are potentially missing out on a load of opportunities if they simply turn their backs on Russia. The fundamentals of the Russian market (the reasons why it was the UK's fastest-growing export market in recent years) have not gone away, including: size of market, a growing middle class with disposable income and an appetite for good quality goods, a booming construction sector and ambitious plans to improve the transport network and logistics across the country.
Companies doing business in Russia need to be robust and have a long term view, as those already embedded in the market will confirm. Generally, they are not pulling out. That should be a wake-up call to those who have not yet considered Russia and/or presently, thanks to the media coverage, have a jaundiced view to ask themselves some questions: Should our company be ignoring this huge market? Does the media tell the whole story? Are our European mainland competitors doing good business there while we shy away from Russia?