The European Union has banned the sale of lavatories to Russia to punish Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.
The “toilet war” has the potential to have particular impact on Russians because one in five does not have indoor plumbing.
Lavatories have even been looted by soldiers fighting in Ukraine to be sent back home.
The export ban covers European “bidets, lavatory pans, flushing cisterns and similar sanitary ware”, according to diplomats. It was brought in last summer, but has only just been reported.
“The flushing toilet has done more for civilisation than any other single invention,” another European diplomat told The Telegraph.
“So by restricting exports, we are merely bringing Russia’s technological advancement in line with the state of its civilisation.”
Not to be outdone, Britain has also sanctioned exports of “lavatory pans” and “toilet articles of porcelain or china”.
Russian troops have become notorious for stealing lavatories from Ukrainian homes, with Volodymyr Zelensky referencing it twice.
“[Russians] used to talk about their biggest dream, to see Paris and die… Their dream now is to steal a toilet and die,” the Ukrainian president said last April.
In January, Mr Zelensky said: “Let them take the toilet bowls – they’ll need them on the road – and go back home.”
During the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, there were also reports of Moscow’s soldiers taking the facilities.
An EU diplomat said: “Russian soldiers are looting toilet bowls from Ukrainian towns. Despite inflated Russian growth figures, this shows how far down the drain their economy really is, as a result of crippling Western sanctions.”
The lavatory ban has been in force since July 2022 as part of a list of banned goods designed to hurt Russia’s industrial capacity.
New round of sanctions
The measure, reported by the EUobserver website, could now be tightened as part of a new drive to close loopholes during intergovernmental negotiations over new sanctions planned for the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion on Feb 24.
The 10th round of sanctions will try to make banks divulge their frozen Russian assets. However, it must get unanimous support from all 27 member states before they can be imposed.
Approval of the new measures is expected at a meeting of ministers on Monday after the European Commission called for export bans worth more than €11 billion (£9.7 billion) on critical technology for its war effort.
Brussels also plans to sanction propagandists for Putin and ban Iranian companies from supplying Russia.
The EU has a long history of targeting symbolic goods for sanctions. It drew up a hit list of British goods such as Scottish whisky in case there was a trade war with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
When it teetered on the verge of a trade war with Donald Trump’s US, it planned to hit iconic goods such as Harley Davidson motorbikes.