On February 27, 2022, the U.S., UK and EU announced their agreement that certain Russian banks would be delisted from the Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). The EU, which has jurisdiction over SWIFT, implemented sanctions measures that will ban the organization, effective March 12, 2022, from providing financial messaging support anywhere in the world for the following Russian financial institutions and their Russian subsidiaries:
- Bank Otkritie;
- Promsvyazbank (PSB);
- Bank Rossiya;
- Vnesheconombank (VEB); and
- VTB Bank
The SWIFT announcement has raised questions about how this action relates to existing sanctions and general licenses for Russian banks. We explore the differences below.
The EU and UK have imposed additional export controls and sanctions with respect to Russia and Belarus connected to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Below is a summary of key developments over recent days since our last blog post on EU and UK developments [here]. This is a rapidly developing area and future blog posts will summarize further developments.
On February 24, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a final rule effective immediately imposing sweeping export control restrictions against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On March 2, 2022, BIS issued another final rule effective immediately imposing the same export restrictions against Belarus in response to Belarus’s role enabling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These actions are part of a larger set of recent sanctions and export control restrictions imposed by the U.S., UK, EU, Japan and other allies. Please see our prior posts available here, here, here, here, here, and here discussing recent sanctions and export control developments against Russia.
On February 24, 2022, in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, President Biden announced further sanctions on Russian individuals and entities. These measures are in addition to those already announced on February 22 and 23 and are primarily targeted at Russia’s financial sector.
These sanctions are part of a global, coordinated effort to maximize consequences for Russia’s actions and show solidarity for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Global partners, including the UK, EU, Canada, Australia and Japan, have also issued sanctions.
Measures were taken both by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The below contains a summary of recent OFAC sanctions action. We published a separate alert detailing recent amendments to the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR).
In response to President Putin’s televised recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (“DNR” and “LNR”) of Ukraine as “independent” nations, and reports of Russian troops being ordered into Ukrainian territory, the United States has imposed Crimea-style comprehensive sanctions on the DNR and LNR prohibiting new U.S. investment as well as imports and exports to and from the regions. The EU and the UK have sanctioned banks and oligarchs, and Germany has suspended certifications on the NordStream2 pipeline project.
On December 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of State initiated a series of sanctions pursuant to Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that target the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB). The sanctions deny new U.S. export licenses to SSB and limit the SSB’s access to credit from U.S. and international financial institutions. In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated several principal executive officers of SSB as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). However, the U.S. action is calibrated, and does not designate SSB or its affiliates as SDNs, nor does it apply broader sanctions on Turkey or the Turkish defense industry.
- The Treasury Department has placed several prominent Russian individuals and companies on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons lists (SDN list). Several of these parties are Russian billionaires previously identified in the Treasury Department’s so-called “Oligarch List” reported to Congress on January 29, 2018.
- Under the general licenses issued with the new listings, U.S. persons have until June 5, 2018 to wind down operations with specified listed companies and their subsidiaries, and until May 7, 2018 to divest debt, equity, or holdings owned by EN+ Group PLC, GAZ Group and United Company RUSAL PLC.
- General License 12, which allows wind down operations with several newly designated SDN companies, instructs that payments to the SDNs must be made into blocked accounts with U.S. banks. This deviates from previous general licenses which did not place conditions on how SDNs must be paid.
On April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in consultation with the State Department, designated 7 Russian oligarchs, 12 companies that they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and 1 state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank. (The list may be found here.)
This week, the U.S. government took several steps to implement sections of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), with implications for Russia-related sanctions and their enforcement. On October 27, 2017, the Department of State (DoS) published guidance on sanctions with respect to Russia’s Defense and Intelligence Sectors under Section 231 of CAATSA. In addition, on October 31, 2017, DoS published guidance on how it would view secondary sanctions for investments in special Russian crude oil projects and energy export pipelines. Separately, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended Directive 4 of the Ukraine/Russia related sanctions and published updated FAQs relating to the amended Directive as well as new guidance on CAATSA sections 223(a), 226, 228, 233.
OFAC has issued a new General License to address problems raised by the sanctioning of the Federal Security Services (FSB). This adjustment serves to authorize permits by the FSB needed for certain commercial transactions and is a limited exception to the sanctions listing of the FSB on December 28, 2016 in connection with Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.