Sanctions placed on Russia by western governments in response to President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of Crimea’s sovereignty are unlikely to have a big impact on trade, according to analysts.

However, it is warned that “if the west does tighten the screws, things could quickly get messy”.

The US sanctioned 11 Russian and Ukrainian citizens it accused of plotting the seizure of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, in late-February. Those sanctioned include aides to Putin and Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich. The EU, meanwhile, has placed visa restrictions on and frozen the assets of the 21 individuals it holds responsible, including military commanders and Crimean parliamentary officials. But neither have directly sanctioned Putin and both stopped short of introducing economic or trade sanctions.

The sanctions kicked in after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and were immediately met with threats from Russian officials that there would be “consequences” should the situation rumble on.

Neil Shearing, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics tells GTR that trade could be severely interrupted if the situation doesn’t abate. “Given the degree of uncertainty about how events may play-out – and the clear scope for the crisis to spiral – it is worthwhile thinking about how vulnerable Russia’s economy might be to more stringent sanctions by the west.”

Shearing says that tougher sanctions could stifle the ability of Russian banks to raise capital in western markets, however thinks that financial sanctions may fail given that Russia is a net creditor to the rest of the world, “to the tune of nearly US$150bn”.

He says that trade sanctions could be more painful, given the dependence of Russia’s economy on exporting energy and in particular, oil and gas. “Russia exports energy to the west and uses the income it earns to import manufactured goods in return. A by-product of this has been a boom in consumer spending over the past decade. Trade sanctions would bring an end to this, since they would limit Russia’s ability to import. This in turn could lead to shortages of goods in local markets and a rise in prices,” he says.

However, as GTR reported last week, the EU’s dependence on trade with Russia may limit the stringency of sanctions they are willing to introduce.

Meanwhile, EuroMaidan, a protest group demanding closer Ukrainian ties with the EU, has criticised the “token” sanctions placed on Russia by the west and reiterated its stance that the sanctions should be as harsh as possible, implying that Russia’s energy sector should be the target.

Spokesperson Chrystyna Chymera tells GTR: “The token sanctions announced by the EU and US simply fail to target the individuals in the Kremlin and their financial backers responsible for the invasion and occupation in Ukraine.

“Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea are fearful of their lives as Russian troops, tanks and paid thugs line the streets. We demand harsher sanctions that directly reach the pockets of Putin and those responsible for this illegal invasion. Even when it’s doing well, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and propped-up by high gas prices. Of course Russian gas is important to Europe, but Putin knows that the euro and pounds flowing the other way are much, much more vital to the Russian economy. The UK, Europe and the US can severely hamper Putin’s illegal invasion by stopping or at least reducing the amount of Russian gas they are importing.”