German exports to Russia plunged 62.3 percent in March from the previous month, government statistics showed Wednesday, as sanctions aimed at starving the Russian economy as punishment for President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine took hold.
The European Union and the United States have imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Russia since the Feb. 24 invasion, and Brussels is expected to adopt an additional 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 up between the two countries in recent decades. Many German companies, including Volkswagen, have stopped exporting their products to Russia.
But German companies nevertheless sold goods worth 1 billion euros (about $1.06 billion) to Russia in March, as some firms not affected by the sanctions have been reluctant to sever ties with the country. Packaged medicines are among the most important items that Russia continues to buy from Germany. Along with food, seeds and medical equipment, they have remained exempt from sanctions.
Bayer, the chemical and health products giant, has ceased all spending in Russia and Belarus but continues to sell essential products in both countries. The company has come under pressure from peace activists and pro-Ukranian groups for its decision, which it defended in a statement citing its ethical responsibility.
“Withholding essential health and agriculture products from the civilian populations — like cancer or cardiovascular treatments, health products for pregnant women and children as well as seeds to grow food — would only multiply the war’s ongoing toll on human life,” the company said.
Overall, German exports for the month were down by 3.3 percent from February, the Federal Statistics Office said. In contrast to March 2021, when the country was emerging from a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, overall exports improved by more than 8 percent, it said.
Germany is the world’s third-biggest exporting country, after China and the United States, according to the World Trade Organization. The United States remains Germany’s most important market abroad, and Americans imported 3.2 percent more goods, worth €11.5 billion, in March than in the previous month.