Today, the United States, in coordination with other G7 countries, announced new sanctions, export controls, and import restrictions on Russia.  The latest U.S. package of measures include sanctions targeting Russia’s defense sector, Entity List designations, increased tariffs on a broad range of Russian goods, and an import ban on Russian gold.

New Sanctions

Various U.S. agencies imposed sanctions on transactions involving individuals and entities connected to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and U.S. State Department imposed blocking sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities supporting Russia’s defense sector.  The designations target major state-owned defense companies, defense research organizations, and military operations in Ukraine implicated in international human rights violations.

OFAC designated 29 individuals and 70 entities, including the Russian defense-conglomerate, State Corporation Rostec (Rostec).  The State Department sanctioned 29 individuals and 45 entities, including re-designation of Russia’s Federal Security Service (a.k.a. the FSB).

U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any direct or indirect dealings with SDNs without prior authorization from OFAC.  All property or property interests of an SDN are also “blocked,” which means that any SDN property or property interest within the possession or control of a U.S. person must be formally frozen and reported to OFAC.

Today, OFAC also issued several general licenses authorizing transactions with certain newly designated SDNs, including:

  • General License No. 39 authorizing transactions to wind-down activities with Rostec, as well as any entity in which Rostec owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest, by August 11, 2022;
  • General License No. 40 authorizing transactions involving specified SDNs related to the provision, export, or reexport of goods, technology, and services to ensure civil aviation safety;
  • General License No. 41 authorizing transactions for the manufacture, sale, and maintenance of agricultural equipment produced by SDNs Nefaz Publicly Traded Company (Nefaz) or Public Joint Stock Company, Tutaev Motor Plant (Tutaev Motor Plant), or any entity in which Nefaz or Tutaev Motor Plant owns, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, a 50 percent or greater interest; and
  • General License No. 42 authorizing limited transactions related to requesting, receiving, utilizing, paying for, or dealing in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications from the FSB.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced the addition of 36 entities from nine countries to its Entity List for evading newly imposed export controls on Russia.  The export, reexport, or transfer of U.S. origin goods, software, and technologies to those designated on BIS’s Entity List are generally not permissible absent prior authorization from BIS, which will rarely be granted.

Tariffs and Import Restrictions

Pursuant to the United States’ suspension of permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, the Biden Administration issued a proclamation yesterday increasing tariffs on more than 570 groups of Russian products.  The 35 percent ad valorem duties are effective 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on July  27, 2022, and apply to a wide variety of products, including steel and aluminum, minerals, chemicals, wood and paper products, aircraft and parts, and automotive parts, among many others.  The heightened duties will apply irrespective of antidumping and countervailing duties, or other fees or extractions applicable to the Russian products.

Ban on Gold Imports

Finally, OFAC imposed an import ban on Russian-origin gold, effective immediately.  Russian-origin gold includes gold produced, manufactured, extracted, or processed in Russia but not gold that has been incorporated or substantially transformed into a foreign-made product.  See OFAC FAQ 1019.  There is a narrow exception related to imports of Russian-origin gold located outside of Russia prior to imposition of the import ban.  As with OFAC’s prior restrictions on the gold market, a newly amended FAQ reiterates that gold market participants, including persons that process or facilitate gold-related transactions, could face sanctions for circumventing or engaging in prohibited gold-related transactions.  See OFAC FAQ 1029.

 

On Monday, June 6, 2022, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 (“DPA”) with the intent to accelerate domestic manufacturing in the renewable energy sector.  In addition to furthering the Administration’s clean energy agenda, Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks explained this action will strengthen U.S. national security, noting the vulnerability of fossil fuel supply lines during conflict and the military capability gains expected to flow from the Defense Department’s transition toward clean energy technologies.  Title III of the DPA empowers the President to mitigate industrial base shortfalls and supply chain risks and expand U.S. production capabilities to promote national defense.  Recently, Presidents Biden and Trump have invoked this emergency authority to address COVID-19 pandemic related vaccination and supply chain issues.  This executive action has the potential to impact contractors and their supply chains in the domestic renewable energy sector and the energy industry writ large.

Invoking the DPA, President Biden authorized the Department of Energy (“DOE”) to take action to accelerate domestic production of clean energy technologies.  President Biden’s exercise of DPA authority includes five presidential determinations targeted toward key areas in the renewable energy industry:

  • Solar panel inputs, including photovoltaic modules and components thereof;
  • Building insulation, especially for older, less efficiently retrofitted buildings;
  • Heat pumps used to efficiently heat and cool buildings;
  • Equipment used to make and use clean electricity-generated fuels, such as electrolyzers, fuel cells, and related platinum group metals; and
  • Transformers and other critical power grid infrastructure.

In its DPA-supported projects, the Biden administration will “strongly encourage” observance of “strong labor standards,” such as project labor agreements and community benefits agreements offering competitive wages and employment terms.[1]  The Administration will also “strongly encourage” projects involving environmental justice outcomes tailored to low-income communities and areas affected by historic “legacy pollution.”

In five memoranda addressed to the Secretary of Energy issued on June 6, 2022, and published in the Federal Register on June 9, 2022, President Biden invoked Title III of the DPA, which authorizes the President to direct certain activities in order to “create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore” domestic industry capabilities essential to national defense.  50 U.S.C. § 4533(a)(1) (2022).  To achieve this, Title III authorizes the President to order government purchases of or commitments to purchase critical resources or technology, subsidize domestically-produced materials to ensure its availability, or order installation and purchasing of supplies for government and privately owned industrial facilities to expand their production capacity in order to aid the national defense.[2]  In issuing each memorandum, President Biden waived certain DPA statutory requirements after determining that action is necessary to avoid a shortage in the subject critical resource or technology that would severely impair national defense capability.  See 50 U.S.C. § 4533(7)(B) (2022).  Nonetheless, each memorandum addresses the three-pronged determination required by section 303(a)(5) of the DPA and discussed further below.

The stated purpose in each memorandum is to ensure a “robust, resilient, and sustainable domestic industrial base” necessary for a clean energy economy, which President Biden determined is essential to “national security, a resilient energy sector, and the preservation of domestic critical infrastructure.”[3]  According to the DOE, this DPA action will advance the Administration’s goals to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy supply—specifically, imports from Russia and China—and promote energy independence, reduce energy use, lessen reliance on fossil fuels and address climate change, create jobs, and decrease energy costs for American families.  The DOE also notes high levels of U.S. and global demand for renewable energy technology and the expectation that this demand will continue to increase.  Without this DPA action, the DOE predicts domestic supply capabilities would be insufficient, vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, and overly reliant on imports.  Consequently, per section 303(a)(5) of the DPA, each memorandum asserts President Biden’s determination with regard to each of the five targeted areas:

  • (1) the stated sector of the domestic energy industry is essential to national defense;
  • (2) President Biden’s exercise of section 303 authority is necessary to ensure that the domestic industry can timely supply and satisfy the domestic need for the stated technology; and
  • (3) purchases, purchase commitments, or other action under section 303 of the DPA are the most cost effective, expedient, and practical means of achieving the stated purpose for each measure.

The Administration also announced its plan, in collaboration with the DOE, to convene industry, labor, environmental justice, and other stakeholders to discuss means to maximize the impacts of this action.  In February 2022, the DOE also issued a comprehensive assessment (“America’s Strategy to Secure the Supply Chain for a Robust Clean Energy Transition”) and reports and fact sheets addressing thirteen key areas in the domestic renewable energy industry, which further explain the Administration’s strategies and recommendations to advance its clean energy goals.  For additional information on and links to the DOE’s assessments, please consult our advisory here.


[1] In a separate section of the statute, the DPA notably excludes from the President’s scope of authority the ability to control employment contracts.  See 50 U.S.C. § 4511(c)(1) (2022).

[2] For additional information on the DPA, please consult our advisory here.

[3] 87 Fed. Reg. 35,071; 87 Fed. Reg. 35,073; 87 Fed. Reg. 35,075; 87 Fed. Reg. 35,077; 87 Fed. Reg. 35,079.

Last Friday, the European Union adopted its sixth round of sanctions against Russia, including the highly anticipated ban on imports of Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products and the provision of related services, subject to certain exceptions.

The European Union’s latest package also expands its ban on the provision of SWIFT interbank messaging network services, expands the EU dual-use export ban, prohibits the broadcasting or advertising of content from certain Russian media outlets to the European Union, prohibits the provision of various consulting services to Russia, and expands EU asset freeze restrictions.

EU Energy Ban

The latest EU sanctions package prohibits those subject to EU jurisdiction from directly or indirectly purchasing, importing, or transferring listed crude oil or petroleum products originating in, or exported from, Russia, subject to the exceptions below.  Notably, the EU ban currently does not apply to imports by pipeline of CN 2709 00 crude oil into Member States.  The direct or indirect provision by EU persons of related services, such as insurance, technical assistance, brokering services, or financing or financial assistance, is also prohibited.

The list of products subject to the EU Energy Ban are set out in Annex XXV to Regulation (EU) No 833/2014, as amended.  Specifically, the Annex describes the following two categories of energy products subject to the EU embargo, which are further defined by reference to the EU’s Combined Nomenclature (CN):

  • CN Code 2709 00, Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude; and
  • CN Code 2710 00, Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, other than crude; preparations not elsewhere specified or included, containing by weight 70 % or more of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations; waste oils.

EU Energy Ban Exceptions

The EU Energy Ban takes immediate effect, but features transitory periods for preexisting contracts and other exceptions.  For contracts concluded before June 4, 2022, EU persons may continue conducting the following transactions, provided that the relevant Member State satisfies EU notification requirements:

  • EU persons may continue conducting limited transactions for near-term delivery of energy products falling under CN 2709 00 until December 5, 2022; and
  • EU persons may continue conducting limited transactions for near-term delivery of energy products falling under CN 2710 00 until February 5, 2023.

Temporary derogations allowing the importation of seaborne crude oil are also available to landlocked Member States whose supply of crude oil by pipeline is interrupted for reasons outside of the Member State’s control.

Nor does the ban apply to listed seaborne crude oil and energy products originating from third countries that are only being loaded in, departing from, or transiting through Russia, provided that the origin and owner of the products are non-Russian.

The EU measure contains specific derogations for the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Croatia.

Further Restrictions

The latest measures imposed a number of further restrictions.

First, the EU also imposed SWIFT-related restrictions on Sberbank, Credit Bank of Moscow, JSC Russian Agricultural Bank, and Belinvestbank (Belarusian Bank for Development and Reconstruction).  Persons subject to EU jurisdiction shall be prohibited from providing specialized financial messaging services to Sberbank, Credit Bank of Moscow, and JSC Russian Agricultural Bank, and Belinvestbank, including to entities whose proprietary rights are directly or indirectly owned, 50 % or more, by the same.

Second, the EU expanded its dual-use ban to capture additional exports that may enhance Russia and Belarus’s military and technological capabilities.  The measures include the addition of 80 chemicals to its list of goods subject to export requirements.  Alongside the expanded list of goods and technology are significant additions to the list of Russia and Belarus entities subject to EU dual-use restrictions.

Third, the measure prohibits those subject to EU jurisdiction from advertising products or services in any content produced or broadcast by designated individuals or entities, including the following:

  • Rossiya RTR / RTR Planeta;
  • Rossiya 24 / Russia 24; and
  • TV Centre International.

Fourth, similar to a recent move by the United States, the EU imposed a ban on the direct or indirect provision of various services, such as accounting, auditing, bookkeeping or tax consulting services, or business management consulting or public relations services to the Government of Russia or Russian entities.  The service ban includes various exceptions to its prohibitions.

Fifth, the EU is now requiring that Member States impose appropriate criminal penalties for sanctions violations.  Member States are also required to provide appropriate measures of confiscation of proceeds derived from EU regulation infringements.

Finally, the EU added 65 individuals and 18 entities to its asset-freeze.  The designations focus on Russian military and defense targets, and proliferators of disinformation.  As a reminder, all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held, or controlled by designated individuals or entities shall be frozen, and no funds or economic resources shall be made available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of such individuals or entities.

 

Today, the United States imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov and his companies, other Russian elites, luxury asset management and service companies, and companies involved in procurement for the Russian and Belarusian militaries.

Targeting Russian Elites and Their Companies

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), together with the U.S. State Department, designated Russian billionaire Alexey Mordashov and several of his companies as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) today, including PJSC Severstal, a major Russian steel producer; Severgroup, a multi-billion-dollar investment company; Nord Gold PLC, a gold mining company; and Algoritm LLC, a Russian technology, media, and advertising company.  Mordashov, the designated companies, and any entities owned 50 percent or more by the newly listed SDNs are subject to full U.S. blocking sanctions.  Business with—and any dealings in the property or interests in property of—the blocked parties is broadly prohibited absent prior authorization from OFAC.  U.S. persons must also report any property or interests in property of the blocked parties in their possession or control to OFAC within 10 business days.

OFAC issued two temporary general licenses to authorize U.S. persons to engage in certain activities necessary to wind down preexisting dealings with PSJC Severstal and Nord Gold PLC that expire on August 31, 2022 and July, 11, 2022, respectively.

Other designated elites include Mariya Zakharova, spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry; Sergei Roldugin, a close associate ofRussian President Vladmir Putin; God Nisanov, Russian billionaire and real estate tycoon; and Evgeny Novitsky, a Russian entrepreneur.

Luxury asset management and service companies

OFAC sanctioned a series of luxury asset management and service companiesassociated with Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, such as Imperial Yachts SARL, a yacht brokerage, its CEO, Evgeniy Borisovich Kochman, and other companies associated with Kochman.  The designations also included various yachts and aircraft used by or affiliated with the Russian elite.

Military procurement networks

Finally, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security added 71 Russian and Belarusian parties to its Entity List, broadly barring the export, re-export, or transferof items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to the listed parties without a license from BIS, which is unlikely to be granted pursuant to a policy of denial for most items.

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Please contact our sanctions and export team with any questions regarding these latest developments.

In coordination with other G7 countries, the United States announced another significant round of sanctions and export control restrictions on Russia on Sunday, May 8.  These include a new ban on the provision of certain services to Russia, new export controls, and sanctions on Russia’s media and financial sectors, and further additions to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated National (SDN) List.

Services Ban

The United States announced new sanctions on Russia that will prohibit the direct or indirect export, reexport, sale, or supply of accounting, trust and corporate formation, and management consulting services to any person in Russia.  The new sanctions will not apply to services provided to entities in Russia that are owned or controlled by a U.S. person or to services provided in connection with the wind down or divestiture of an entity located in Russia that is not owned or controlled by a Russian person.  In a new FAQ, OFAC indicates that it intends to issue regulations defining a “Russian person” to be individuals who are Russian citizens or nationals and entities organized under Russian law.

OFAC defines the sanctioned services as the following:

  • “‘Accounting service’ – includes services related to the measurement, processing, and transfer of financial data about economic entities.
  • ‘Trust and corporate formation services’ – includes services related to assisting persons in forming or structuring legal persons, such as trusts and corporations; acting or arranging for other persons to act as directors, secretaries, administrative trustees, trust fiduciaries, registered agents, or nominee shareholders of legal persons; providing a registered office, business address, correspondence address, or administrative address for legal persons; and providing administrative services for trusts.  Please note that all of these activities are common activities of trust and corporate service providers (TCSPs), although they may be provided by other persons.
  • ‘Management consulting services’ – includes services related to strategic advice; organizational and systems planning, evaluation, and selection; marketing objectives and policies; mergers, acquisitions, and organizational structure; staff augmentation and human resources policies and practices; and brand management.”

The new sanctions are imposed pursuant to E.O. 14071 and will take effect on June 7, 2022.

Concurrent with the new sanctions, OFAC issued two general licenses temporarily authorizing the continued provision of certain services to Russia.  General License No. 34 authorizes transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to wind down the provision of sanctioned services to Russia until 12:01 am EDT on July 7, 2022.  General License No. 35 authorizes the export of credit rating and auditing services to Russia until 12:01 am EDT on August 20, 2022.  Neither general license authorizes dealings with SDNs or other blocked parties.

OFAC also issued a determination pursuant to E.O. 14024 that allows the agency to designate persons that operate or have operated in the accounting, trust and corporate formation services, or management consulting sectors of the Russian economy as SDNs in the future.  A new FAQ provides definitions for each sector.

New Industrial Export Controls

As announced on Sunday, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a final rule today to expand export controls on equipment and other items that widely used by Russian industry.  The final rule imposes a U.S. license requirement on exports, reexports, and transfers of hundreds of common industrial and commercial items, including “wood products, industrial engines, boilers, motors, fans, and ventilation equipment, bulldozers, and many other items with industrial and commercial applications.”  In total, 205 HTS codes at the six-digit level and 478 corresponding 10-digit Schedule B numbers were added to Supplement No. 4 to Part 746 of the EAR, which lists items subject to Russian industry sector export controls.  BIS will review license requests for exports, reexports, and transfers of such items pursuant to a policy of denial, unless the proposed shipments are necessary for health and safety reasons or to meet humanitarian needs.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which administers export controls on more sensitive nuclear items, will also suspend general licenses that previously permitted export of source material, special nuclear material, byproduct material, and deuterium to Russia.

Sanctions on Russian Media Outlets

On Sunday, OFAC designated three major Russian state-owned media outlets as SDNs: Joint Stock Company Channel One Russia, Television Station Russia-1, and Joint Stock Company NTV Broadcasting Company.  OFAC amended General License No. 25A to prevent the general license from being used to provide telecommunications and internet communications services, software, hardware, or technology to the newly designated SDNs.

Additional SDNs

OFAC also designated as SDNs Moscow Industrial Bank (MIB) and ten MIB subsidiaries, 27 members of Gazprombank’s Board of Directors, eight current or recent members of SDN Sberbank’s Executive Board, seven shipping companies, one marine towing company, and Russian defense company Limited Liability Company Promtekhnologiya.  As of the date of the designations, all dealings with these persons are prohibited without authorization from OFAC and the property and interests in property of these persons must be formally blocked and reported to OFAC.

Background on USTR’s Section 301 Tariff Review: On Tuesday, May 3, USTR announced the initiation of a statutorily-required review of the tariff actions in the Section 301 investigation of China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation. (See Federal Register notice here.)

Under the statute, unless USTR receives a request for continuation and conducts a review of the case, Section 301 actions will automatically terminate after four years. The agency’s review must examine the effectiveness of the actions in achieving the objectives of the program as well as “the effects of such actions on the United States economy, including consumers.” USTR’s announcement serves as notice to domestic industries that benefit from the tariffs of their possible termination, as well as the opportunity to request their continuation.

USTR is considering all four tranches of Section 301 China tariffs at the same time. Section 301 tariffs were imposed on approximately $34 billion worth of Chinese imports on July 7, 2018 (List 1) and on another $16 billion on August 23, 2018 (List 2). Further modifications were made in September 2018 ($200 billion; List 3) and September 2019 ($110 billion; List 4A).

Deadline for Request for Continuation: Requests for continuation of the tariffs must be submitted prior to the four-year anniversary of the action, which is July 6, 2022, for the first action in the investigation and August 22, 2022 for the second action.

If one or more requests for continuation are submitted, which appears to be almost a certainty, USTR will publish a subsequent notice announcing the continuation of the tariff action and will proceed with a review of the tariffs. If USTR does not receive any requests for continuation (an outcome that appears highly unlikely), the tariffs would automatically terminate at the end of the four year period.

Submitting Comments: For the July 2018 trade action, the web portal at https://comments.ustr.gov/s/ will open for requests to continue the action on May 7, 2022, and close at 11:59 pm on July 5, 2022.

For the August 2018 trade action, the web portal at https://comments.ustr.gov/s/ will open for requests to continue the action on June 24, 2022, and close at 11:59 pm on August 22, 2022.

Requests should “identify the specific industry concerned and should address how the domestic industry benefits from the July 6, 2018 action or August 23, 2018 action, as modified.”

The USTR notice says that entities who wish for the continuation of tariffs under List 3 or List 4A may submit requests through either portal.  We recommend, however, that interested parties that support continuation of Section 301 tariffs on List 3 or List 4A items submit a letter expressing support for continuation of the tariffs to both portals.

Review Timeline: Assuming USTR receives requests for continuation, a formal announcement (i.e., Federal Register Notice) will be published and the tariffs will remain in place while USTR conducts the review. The review will include separate public comment opportunities for interested parties, during which USTR will accept comments on “the effectiveness of the action in achieving the objectives of Section 301, other actions that could be taken, and the effects of such actions on the United States economy, including consumers.”

There is no timeline for the review and no deadline for USTR to report its results.

Today, the Biden Administration announced a legislative proposal aimed at empowering the U.S. government to seize and forfeit property linked to Russian elites.  Specifically, the proposed system would enhance and streamline the seizure and forfeiture of Russian oligarch assets and provide for the liquidation and redistribution of proceeds to support Ukraine.  The announcement unveiled the following items as part of the proposed legislative package:

  • Establishment of an interagency process for forfeiture of Russian oligarch property connected to unlawful conduct, with forfeiture decisions appealable to a Federal Court on an expedited basis;
  • Criminalization of the knowing or intentional possession of proceeds derived from corrupt dealings with the Russian Government;
  • Direction of forfeited funds derived from corrupt practices and violations of U.S. export laws violations to Ukraine;
  • Authorized forfeiture of seized property used to facilitate violation of sanctions rules;
  • Designation of sanctions evasion as a “racketeering activity” under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, which would subject perpetrators to intensive Department of Justice investigation and prosecution;
  • Increase of the statute of limitations for money laundering prohibitions and post-conviction forfeitures from 5 to 10 years;
  • Enhancement of cooperation between the United States and allies by improving authorities to enforce foreign restraint and forfeiture orders.

The Administration’s announcement arrives amid reports of burgeoning domestic and international enforcement efforts against the property of Russian oligarchs, and demands for greater assistance to Ukraine.  There are indications that such measures have found bipartisan support within the United States, as well as reports that the European Union and Canada may implement similar measures to fund Ukraine assistance programs using frozen Russian assets.

A similar bill, authorizing seizure of Russian oligarch property, recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, a development that bodes well for the Biden Administration’s proposal.

Yesterday, the White House issued a proclamation banning Russian-affiliated vessels from entering U.S. ports in response to Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, effective April 28, 2022. Banned vessels include Russian-flagged vessels, vessels owned by Russian persons, and vessels that are Russian operated. The order authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue regulations to implement the ban.

Russian vessels that are carrying certain nuclear materials or that need to dock in a U.S. port on the grounds of “conducting crew changes, emergency medical care, or for other humanitarian need” are exempted from the ban.

The move by the United States follows similar actions by the European Union and Canada.

On April 19, 2022, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a fact sheet with guidance on various humanitarian general licenses that authorize activities otherwise prohibited by U.S. sanctions, and respond to the threat Russia’s war in Ukraine poses to global food and energy supply chains.  The fact sheet provides consolidated guidance to non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, companies, and others regarding OFAC’s authorizations for humanitarian assistance, agricultural trade, the provision of medical supplies and services, and other support to people impacted by the war.

Concurrent with the publication of the fact sheet, OFAC issued General License (GL) No. 27, which additionally authorizes certain humanitarian relief efforts by nongovernmental organizations.

Background

As primarily chronicled hereherehere, and here, in response to the war in Ukraine, the United States established the new Russian Harmful Foreign Activities sanctions program (codified as Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions Regulations (RuHSR) at 31 C.F.R. part 587), which targets a variety of activities involving Russia.  OFAC also expanded the embargo against the Crimea region of Ukraine under the existing Ukraine-/Russia-related sanctions program to impose embargo restrictions on the breakaway regions of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR).  Although sanctions against Russia are expansive, OFAC has issued a variety of authorizations to support the people of Ukraine and Russia impacted by the war.

Authorizations to Support the People of Ukraine and Russia

Authorizations under the RuHSR include:

  • GL 6A – Authorizing certain transactions related to the exportation or reexportation of agricultural commodities; medicine; medical devices, replacement parts and components or software updates; the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, or clinical trials
  • GL 25 – Authorizing certain transactions related to telecommunications and internet-based communications
  • GL 27 – Authorizing certain transactions in support of nongovernmental organizations’ activities, including activities to support humanitarian projects; democracy-building initiatives; health, food security, and water and sanitation projects; education; and environmental and natural resource protection
  • GL 18 – Authorizing U.S. dollar-denominated banknote noncommercial, personal remittances
  • GL 19 – Authorizing transactions related the personal maintenance of U.S. individuals located in Russia
  • Section 587.508 – Authorizing the provision and receipt of nonscheduled emergency medical services
  • Sections 587.205(b), 587.510 – Exempting transactions for the conduct of the official business of the U.S. government and the United Nations (including its specialized agencies and programs)
  • GL 7 – Authorizing overflight payments, emergency landings, and air ambulance service

Authorizations under Ukraine-/Russia-related sanctions program include:

Concerning Crimea

  • GL 4 – Authorizing the exportation or re exportation of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical supplies, and replacement parts
  • GL 6 – Authorizing noncommercial, personal remittances
  • GL 7 – Authorizing the operation of an account in a U.S. financial institution for ordinary residents of Crimea
  • GL 9 – Authorizing the exportation of certain services and software incident to internet-based communications
  • GL 25 – Authorizing journalistic activities and the establishment of news bureaus to engage in certain transactions in Crimea

Concerning DNR/LNR

  • GL 18 – Authorizing the exportation or re exportation of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, replacement parts and components, or software updates and transactions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • GL 19 – Authorizing certain transactions related to the receipt or transmission or telecommunications, as well as certain transactions of common carriers involving mail and packages
  • GL 20 – Authorizing transactions for the conduct of the official business of certain international organizations and entities
  • GL 21 – Authorizing noncommercial, personal remittances and the operation of accounts of an ordinary resident in DNR and LNR
  • GL 22 – Authorizing the exportation of certain services and software incident to internet-based communications
  • GL 23 – Authorizing certain transactions in support of nongovernmental organizations’ activities in DNR and LNR
  • GL 24 – Authorizing transactions related to the provision of maritime services performed by individuals who are ordinarily resident in DNR and LNR
  • GL 25 – Authorizing news reporting organizations and employees in DNR and LNR to engage in certain transactions related to journalistic activities

Entities responding to the crisis in Ukraine or otherwise impacted by U.S. sanctions on Russia should carefully review the fact sheet, any relevant general licenses in detail, and associated FAQs issued by OFAC.


Today, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Transkapitalbank, a privately-held Russian commercial bank, and its subsidiary, Investtradebank, as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). OFAC imposed blocking sanctions on the banks due to their role in facilitating U.S. dollar payments for sanctioned clients and the development of systems designed to evade U.S. and EU sanctions.  U.S. persons are broadly prohibited from conducting business with the banksor with entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the newly designated SDNs without authorization from OFAC.  U.S. persons must also formally “block” (freeze and report) any property or interests in property of the banks that are in theirpossession or control.

OFAC issued two temporary general licenses authorizing limited continued dealings with Transkapitalbank.  First, OFAC issued a general license authorizing certain transactions involving Transkapitalbank that are destined to or originating from Afghanistan in order to support humanitarian relief efforts in that country.  Second, OFAC issued a general license authorizing U.S. persons to wind down certain transactions involving Transkapitalbank and its majority-owned entities through 12:01 am EDT on May 20, 2022, subject to the limitations specified in the license.

Bitriver

OFAC also designated virtual currency mining company Bitriver AG and its Russian subsidiaries as SDNs today.  As with the action against Transkapitalbank, the designation of Bitriver broadly prohibits U.S. persons and those in the United States from conducting transactions involving Bitriver or its property and interests in property, and requires U.S. persons to formally freeze any property or interests in property of Bitriver in their possession or control.  OFAC designated Bitriver to prevent the company from obtaining imported computer equipment and conducting fiat payments necessary to support their business, reducing the ability of Russia to use virtual currencies to offset the impact of sanctions.

Evasion Network

Separately, OFAC updated sanctions on Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev and designated a network of individuals and entities that support Malofeyev’s activities, including those related to sanctions evasion and misinformation campaigns.

New FAQ on Credit Cards

Today, OFAC also issued a new FAQ clarifying the obligations of credit card systems operators under U.S. Russia- and Belarus- related sanctions.  U.S. credit card operators and acquirers are prohibited from processing transactions involving listed foreign financial institutions absent authorization from OFAC.  OFAC also indicates that non-U.S. operators whose payment cards are issued by listed foreign financial institutions would be exposed to U.S. sanctions risks to the extent that those payment cards are used in the United States.  Accordingly, OFAC encourages U.S. persons, including credit card systems operators, to exercise caution and adopt due diligence processes for dealings with non-U.S. operators known to host payment cards issued by sanctioned financial institutions, and whose cards are accepted in the United States.