Over the last two weeks, the United States, European Union, and allied countries imposed a broad range of sanctions and export control restrictions on Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additional sanctions measures are likely in response to the very fluid situation in Ukraine.
This post summarizes the state of affairs as of Friday, March 4, 2022. Please reach out to our team if you have any questions about these or future developments.
Current Status & What’s New
The current sanctions measures do not amount to a full embargo on Russia, and Russia has not been cut off fully from the global financial system. As a result, certain types of international trade with Russia remain permissible for U.S., EU, and other western companies. Cross-border payments also remain possible for certain types of transactions.
That said, the United States, EU, and other G7 countries significantly escalated sanctions on Russia this week, targeting Russia’s Central Bank, National Wealth Fund, and Ministry of Finance. The sanctions are designed to limit Russia’s ability to deploy its foreign currency reserves and support the value of the ruble, which has led to a sharp drop in the value of the Russian currency and the imposition of currency controls and other defensive monetary measures in Russia. U.S. measures also broadly prohibit U.S. persons from conducting any transaction or business dealing that directly or indirectly involves the Central Bank, National Wealth Fund, or Ministry of Finance without prior authorization.
This week, Western countries also closed their airspace to Russian aircraft, blacklisted the Russian Direct Investment Fund, imposed trading restrictions and sanctions on Belarus, expanded export controls on Russia, adopted additional financial sanctions targeting Russia, and blacklisted Russian elites and their family members.
Some Western companies responded to this week’s developments by suspending or limiting engagement with the Russian market, as firms assessed the new legal requirements and considered the risk of continued engagements with Russia. Western companies should continue to expect disruptions to legally permissible Russia-related business, as banks, logistics providers, and companies review the new restrictions and impose additional compliance measures.
Banks subject to blocking or asset freeze restrictions
Western countries implemented blocking sanctions or asset freeze restrictions on a number of large Russian financial institutions over the last two weeks. In the United States, banks were added to the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN List). Russian banks subject to blocking or asset freeze sanctions in at least one Western jurisdiction include: VEB, PSB, VTB Bank, Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank, Novikombank, Bank Rossiya, Black Sea Bank For Development And Reconstruction, Genbank, and IS Bank.
The sanctions generally prohibit any direct or indirect dealings with these banks, unless authorized pursuant to a “wind down” or other type of general license. We cover these sanctions in several posts, including here, here, here, here, and here.
The United States imposed correspondent and payable-through sanctions on Sberbank last week, which will limit Sberbank’s ability to conduct U.S. dollar transactions. The sanctions also require U.S. financial institutions to reject future transactions involving Sberbank and its subsidiaries. The U.K. imposed similar measures this week. You can read more about sanctions on Sberbank here and here.
The United States imposed financing restrictions on large Russian state-owned enterprises that prohibit U.S. persons from dealing in new debt of those companies with a maturity of more than 14 days or in new equity of those companies. The sanctions are very similar to existing U.S. sectoral sanctions that have been imposed on Russian companies pursuant to E.O. 13662 since 2014. As noted below, the EU expanded similar debt sanctions. More information is available here.
Embargo and Trading Ban on Separatist Regions
The United States and allies imposed embargoes or trading bans on the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) regions of Ukraine. We cover the U.S. and EU bans here and here, and provide initial thoughts on how to comply with the embargo here.
New SDNs and Asset Freezes
The United States and allies imposed blocking sanctions and asset freezes on a number of Russian elites, their family members, and Russian companies. Nord Stream 2 AG and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) were also subject to sanctions. Blocking and asset freeze sanctions generally prohibit all business with the sanctioned parties and their majority-owned entities. We covered these sanctions in several of our posts.
Central Bank Sanctions
As noted above, G7 countries imposed broad sanctions on transactions involving Russia’s Central Bank, National Wealth Fund, and Ministry of Finance. These sanctions include a sweeping prohibition on direct or indirect transactions or other business dealings involving the sanctioned entities without authorization. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued two new general licenses and expanded two existing general licenses this week that authorize limited interactions with the sanctioned entities. OFAC also issued important guidance explaining the intended scope of the U.S. sanctions.
EU Banking, Financial, & SWIFT Restrictions
The EU imposed a series of financial sanctions on Russia last week, including limits on deposits by Russian nationals in the European Union, sanctions on the sale of euro-denominated securities to Russian nationals, limits on the listing of shares in the EU, sanctions on the provision of investment services, limits on supplying euro-denominated banknotes to Russian persons, and the expansion of existing securities and debt sanctions. The EU also imposed a ban on the provision of specialized financial messaging services on seven previously sanctioned Russian banks, a move that will effectively cut off those banks from the SWIFT interbank messaging system. We cover these developments here and here.
Expanded Russia Dual-Use Licensing Requirements
The United States, European Union, and other countries amended export control regulations to impose license requirements on exports of a broad array of goods, software, and related technical knowhow to Russia. The U.S. restrictions apply to all items listed in Categories 3 through 9 of the Commerce Control List, including a number of less sensitive items. Subject to a limited number of exceptions, the U.S. government will review license applications related to these exports under a presumption of denial, which means that licenses will rarely be granted. The EU and UK imposed corresponding broad-based dual use export bans on Russia this week, subject to limited exceptions.
The United States extended prohibitions on the export of specified items to Military End Users and Uses in Russia and added a significant number of Russian companies to the Entity List, broadly prohibiting the transfer of items subject to the EAR to the listed parties. The United States also expanded existing controls on the transfer of certain items in support of the Russian oil and gas industry and imposed a heightened license review policy. The EU imposed license requirements on the transfer of enumerated items that could contribute to Russia’s military or technological enhancement and on transfers of specified goods and technology suited for use in oil refining, aviation, and space industries.
The United States also extended its “Foreign Direct Product Rule” (FDPR) to apply to exports to Russia and to Russian Military End Users (including supporters of Military End Users or the Russian military). The FDPR operates differently depending on whether military end users are involved. The complex changes to the FDPR significantly increase the scope of non-U.S. origin items that are now subject to the EAR’s Russia-related license requirements.
Trade Controls & Sanctions on Belarus
Western countries imposed additional sanctions, export controls, and import restrictions on Belarus this week in response to the country’s growing involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. The measures imposed additional asset freeze restrictions on Belarusian companies and officials, extended the new Russia dual-use export controls to Belarus, and limited imports of certain wood, cement, iron, steel, rubbery, and machinery products to the EU.
While the United States, EU, and other allies are closely coordinating new sanctions measures, there are meaningful differences between the measures imposed by different jurisdictions. To ensure compliance with applicable law, it is important to review the new sanctions measures in all of the jurisdictions in which you operate.