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Ukraine Crisis – US Sanctions Update

Mayer Brown
30/06/2022

UPDATE:

June 29, 2022

  • U.S. Secretary of Commerce Praises Efficacy of Export Controls on Russia: At the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) Update Conference, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke about the effects of the controls put in place on Russia with regards to global exports and aerospace controls. Raimondo stated that, since the controls were put in place, global exports of semiconductors to Russia from all sources have declined by almost 90 percent. Additionally, the aerospace controls put in place have led Russia to potentially ground between half and two-thirds of its commercial aircraft by 2025 in order to cannibalize them for spare parts. (https://www.commerce.gov/news/speeches/2022/06/remarks-us-secretary-commerce-gina-raimondo-bureau-industry-and-security-bis).

  • U.S. and Allies REPO Task Announces Action on More Than $30 Billion in Frozen Assets: The Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (“REPO”) Task Force, an international coalition between the U.S. and allied devoted to sanctions enforcement, stated Wednesday that it has blocked or frozen more than $30 billion worth of sanctioned Russians’ assets, immobilized $300 billion in Russian Central Bank Assets, frozen or seized various items of luxury property, and heavily restrict sanctioned Russians’ access to the international financial system. The Task Force committed to continued enforcement efforts along these lines. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0839)

  • Gas Prices Test American Appetite for New Cold War with Russia: Self-sanctioning and Putin’s deliberate reduction in gas flows have sent energy costs up sharply in the West, undermining their leaders’ political standing. President Biden has begun pivoting his agenda, pushing to export more liquefied natural gas to Europe and patching up relations with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is a net exporter of petroleum and related products, and is the most important player in the West’s effort to wean itself off Russian energy. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-balk-at-the-price-of-a-new-cold-war-with-russia-11656505721?mod=hp_lead_pos13)

UPDATE:

June 28, 2022

  • Treasury Department Sanctions Nearly 100 Targets in Putin’s War Machine and Prohibits Russian Gold Imports: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 70 new entities and individuals pursuant to Russia sanctions, including Rostec, Kamaz, defense technology holdings, industrial exporters, and management entities, as well as 29 Russian individuals. Additionally, OFAC determined that prohibitions of section 1(a)(i) of Executive Order 14068, “Prohibiting Certain Imports, Exports, and New Investment With Respect to Continued Russian Federation Aggression,” now apply to gold of Russian Federation origin, in line with actions by other G7 members. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0838;https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/determination_06282022_eo14068.pdf).

  • Treasury Department Issues New General Licenses: In conjunction with the new sanctions announced today, the Treasury Department announced the following new general licenses:

    o   General License 39: Permits wind-down transactions with Rostec and any entity owned 50 percent or more by Rostec through 12:01 am ET on August 11, 2022. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl39.pdf)

    o   General License 40: Permits “all transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the provision, exportation, or reexportation of goods, technology, or services to ensure the safety of civil aviation” to companies listed in an attached annex, so long as the aircraft is registered outside of Russia and the goods are for civil aviation purposes. The licenses has no expiration date. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl40.pdf).

    o   General License 41: Permits “all transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the manufacture, sale, and maintenance, including the provision and receipt of warranty and maintenance services, of agricultural equipment, components, and spare parts produced by Nefaz Publicly Traded Company (“Nefaz”) or Public Joint Stock Company Tutaev Motor Plant” and entities owned 50 percent or more by them through 12:01 am eastern on December 22, 2022. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl41.pdf).

    o   General License 42: Permits transactions, without expiration, ordinarily incident and necessary to:

    §  “1) Requesting, receiving, utilizing, paying for, or dealing in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications issued or registered by the Federal Security Service for the importation, distribution, or use of information technology products in the Russian Federation, provided that (i) the exportation, reexportation, or provision of any goods or technology that are subject to the Export Administration Regulations, 15 CFR parts 730 through 774, is licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce; and

    §  (ii) the payment of any fees to the Federal Security Service for such licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications does not exceed $5,000 in any calendar year.” (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl42.pdf).

    o   General License 43: Permits divestment, debt and equity transfer, and wind down of derivative contracts involving Public Joint Stock Company Severstal, Nord Gold PLC, and any company owned 50 percent or more by those companies, through 12:01 am eastern on August 31, 2022. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl43.pdf).

  • Key Sanctions Advisor Leaves Administration: On Saturday, Reuters reported that Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh, the primary White House point of contact for sanctions on Russia, has left the administration, taking a job with PGIM Fixed Income, a Wall Street asset manager with $890 billion in assets. Singh had previously taken a leave of absence from his White House position for personal reasons. He will be replaced by former BlackRock strategist Mike Pyle. (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uss-russia-sanctions-architect-singh-departs-ukraine-war-drags-2022-06-25/).

  • State Department Expands Visa Restrictions and Sanctions related to Rusia: Alongside the Treasury Department’s Russia-related actions, the State Department issued the following restrictions:

    o   Visa Restrictions: The Department imposed visa restrictions on 511 Russian military officers and 18 Russian nationals believed to be involved in suppressing Russian dissent.

    o   Designations Pursuant to E.O. 14024: The Department designated the Russian-installed “Mayor” of Melitopol, 45 Russian defense-related entities, 19 members of the Board of Directors of Rostec, 9 family members of Rostec Board members, three Russian military units, and an Uzbek company providing support to Russian companies attempting to evade sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order 14024. These designated individuals will have their assets blocked in the US and US persons are forbidden from transacting with them or any entity owned 50 percent or more by them. (https://www.state.gov/targeting-russias-war-machine-sanctions-evaders-military-units-credibly-implicated-in-human-rights-abuses-and-russian-federation-officials-involved-in-suppression-of-dissent/).   

  • FinCEN, BIS Issue Alert on Russian and Belarusian Export Control Evasion: On Tuesday, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued an alert on Russian and Belarusian attempts to evade sanctions. The alert “provides financial institutions with an overview of BIS’s export restrictions to date, a list of certain commodities of concern, and other information they can use and incorporate into their risk-based screening of financial transactions. In addition, it provides select transactional and behavioral red flag indicators of export control evasion, including red flags derived from recent Bank Secrecy Act reporting.” (https://bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/about-bis/newsroom/press-releases/3041-2022-06-28-bis-press-release-fincen-and-bis-joint-alert/file).

  • Treasury Department Announces Intent to Explore G7 Price Cap on Russian Oil: The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the U.S. will be working expeditiously with their G7 counterpart leaders to pursue a limit on the price of Russian oil. This advances the U.S.’s twin goals of sharply reducing Russian revenue and stabilizing global energy prices. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0837).

UPDATE:

June 27, 2022

  • White House Previews New Sanctions on Russia, Support for Ukraine: In a Monday statement, the White House announced that various federal agencies will implement the following restrictions on Russia and support measures for Ukraine:

    o   New targeted sanctions, in coordination with G7 partners, to “restrict Russia’s access to key industrial inputs, services, and technologies produced by our economies, particularly those supporting Russia’s armament industrial base and technology sector.”

    o   Explore authority to use revenues collected from tariffs on Russian goods to assist Ukraine.

    o   Efforts to reduce Russian revenues, including a prohibition on new Russian gold imports to the US and the addition of “companies engaging in backfill activities in support of Russia by adding several companies around the world to the [Department of Commerce’s] Entity List.”

    o   New sanctions on private military companies and Russian military units credibly implicated in human rights abuses in Ukraine.

    o   $7.5 billion in assistance to Ukraine in coordination with G7 partners. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/06/27/fact-sheet-the-united-states-and-g7-to-take-further-action-to-support-ukraine-and-hold-the-russian-federation-accountable/).

  • Key Sanctions Advisor Leaves Administration: On Saturday, Reuters reported that Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh, the primary White House point of contact for sanctions on Russia, has left the administration, taking a job with PGIM Fixed Income, a Wall Street asset manager with $890 billion in assets. Singh had previously taken a leave of absence from his White House position for personal reasons. He will be replaced by former BlackRock strategist Mike Pyle. (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/uss-russia-sanctions-architect-singh-departs-ukraine-war-drags-2022-06-25/).

  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Discusses Sanctions in Turkey: On Saturday, the Treasury Department announced that Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo had visited Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey from June 22-24. There, he met with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Treasury and Finance, and private banking institutions. He discussed sanctions enforcement, and “all parties expressed a desire to ensure that Turkey is not used as a haven for illicit financing and that the integrity of its banking sector continues to be protected.” (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0834).

UPDATE:

June 24, 2022

  • Panel Asks Treasury to Temporarily Approve Russian Swaps Trading: A panel of 13 banks and asset managers, the Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee, asked the Treasury Department to temporarily allow trades in Russian assets so that investors that wagered on a Russian default can get what they are owed. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control declined to comment, and Bloomberg suspects that no action will be taken on the issue prior to the G7 Summit this weekend. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-24/swaps-panel-asks-us-treasury-for-workaround-on-russia-sanctions).

  • Secretary of State Meets with German Representatives on Food Security Crisis: On the sidelines of the G7 Summit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock discussed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its impact on global food security. Secretary Blinken noted that the sanctions imposed on Russia collectively exempt food, food products, fertilizers, insurers, and shippers so there is no reason Russia should be contributing to the global food crisis. (https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-german-foreign-minister-annalena-baerbock-before-their-meeting-2/).

  • Treasury Secretary Discusses Supply Chain Concerns with IMF Managing Director: During her meeting with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed the need to respond to ongoing supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0833).

  • Treasury Department Reaffirms Partnership with Australia: In a call with Australia’s Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen thanked Australia for its strong partnership in holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Australia economic partnership. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0832).

UPDATE:

June 23, 2022

  • Nike to Exit Russia: Nike told Reuters on Thursday that it is making a full exit from Russia, three months after suspending operations in the country and one month after not renewing its agreement with its largest franchisee in Russia. The company said its “priority is to ensure we are fully supporting our employees while we responsibly scale down our operations over the coming months.” (https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-nike-make-full-exit-russia-2022-06-23/).

UPDATE:

June 22, 2022

  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Calls for Increased Due Diligence from Global Financial Hubs: On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo met with members of the United Arab Emirates Banks Federation to underscore the need for “vigilan[t] and proactive action in combatting Russian sanctions evasion.” Adeyemo specifically noted that foreign financial institutions should be mindful of OFAC’s authority to target foreign persons for providing “material support” to a sanctioned entity. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0827).

  • U.S. Encourages Countries to Import Russian Food and Fertilizer: On Wednesday, U.S. State Department Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Assistant Secretary Ramin Toloui encouraged countries to reach out to the U.S. Treasury Department for help if they experience any problems importing food and fertilizer from Russia, noting that “The United States does not want there to be impediments to the ability of countries, companies to purchase Russian food, Russian fertilizer, and for those goods to access international markets.” (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-urges-countries-reach-out-if-having-issues-with-russian-food-fertilizer-2022-06-22/).

  • Russian Disinformation a Threat to U.S. National Security: Glenn Gerstell, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former general counsel of the National Security Agency, provided insight into Russia’s use of cyberattacks and disinformation in the war with Ukraine. He noted that Russia failed to achieve a “a strategic or enduring effect” from cyberattacks but was more successful with its disinformation campaign. Gerstell said he “sees disinformation as the number one threat to U.S. national security.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-perspective-on-russian-cyberattacks-and-disinformation-11655845822).

  • Microsoft Launches Russian Propaganda Index: On Wednesday, Microsoft announced additional measures to counter Russia’s successful disinformation campaign, including new analytics, additional staff, and the development of a Russian Propaganda Index that “measures user traffic to ‘Russian state-controlled and -sponsored news outlets and amplifiers’ as a proportion to traffic to all news sites.” Microsoft reported that the index showed the proportion of propaganda seen by users in Ukraine tripled in the first weeks after the invasion and rose by 86 percent in the United States. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/06/22/microsoft-propaganda-war-vaccines-misinformation/).

UPDATE:

June 21, 2022

  • Treasury Secretary Discusses Future Sanctions on Russia with Canadian Officials: During meetings in Toronto on Sunday with Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that her meetings discussed “price caps or a price exception that would enhance and strengthen recent and proposed energy restrictions by Europe, the United States, the UK and others, that would push down the price of Russian oil and depress Putin’s revenues, while allowing more oil supply to reach the global market.” (https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/us-talks-with-allies-russian-oil-price-cap-says-yellen-2022-06-20/).

  • China Pressures Tesla CEO Elon Musk for Supporting Ukraine: The Financial Times reported on increased tensions between Elon Musk and Beijing, which threaten Musk’s access to China’s consumer market. Chinese public criticism of Musk, and his company Tesla, began shortly after Musk publicly supported Ukraine and used his space exploration company SpaceX to launch satellites to secure Ukrainian internet networks after the Russian invasion. (https://www.ft.com/content/df032357-51e7-4635-baaa-f053dcc0c4c1).

UPDATE:

June 20, 2022

UPDATE:

June 19, 2022

  • Treasury Secretary Calls for Gas Tax Holiday Amid Surging Prices: In an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that a federal gas tax holiday is “an idea that’s certainly worth considering as the conflict in Ukraine has contributed to skyrocketing gas prices. Analysts do not have consensus as to whether a federal gas tax holiday will lead to reduced gas prices, and Republicans in the Senate oppose any gas tax holiday, since proposed relief would expire shortly after the midterm elections. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/gasoline-tax-holiday-worth-considering-yellen-says-11655655086).

UPDATE:

June 17, 2022

  • U.S. Treasury Praises FATF’s Actions Against Russia: On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department commended the actions taken by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at its plenary meeting to restrict Russia’s membership privileges, including removal from leadership positions and decision-making activities. The plenary meeting also yielded recommendations to prevent the misuse of digital assets.  (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0823).
  • Treasury Thanks Banks for Cybersecurity Efforts After Ukraine Invasion: On Friday, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo met with executive members of the Bank Policy Institute’s Technology Policy Division to discuss the Treasury Department’s ongoing work to promote cyber resilience, safeguard vital government applications, and work collaboratively with private sector institutions to maintain security. He thanked the participants for their steps they have taken to work with federal partners and one another on common cyber threats, given the heightened threat risk due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0821).

  • CNN Discusses Inner Workings of the Treasury Department: On Friday, CNN released a detailed look at the U.S. Treasury Department’s “economic war” on Russia since Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. The report details the Department’s efforts to identify sanctions targets through its own intelligence unit, respond to oligarchs who suspect they might be the Department’s next target, and how the Department builds its programs to have maximum effect over time. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/17/politics/nerd-warriors-treasury-department-sanctions-economic-war-russia/index.html).

UPDATE:

June 16, 2022

  • Department of Commerce Denies Export Privileges for Belarusian Airlines: On Thursday, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued an order temporarily denying all export privileges for Belavia Belarusian Airlines (Belavia), the flag carrier of Belarus, due to ongoing violations of the comprehensive export controls imposed on Belarus by the Commerce Department. This is the first action BIS has taken against a Belarusian airline under its new export controls. (https://bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/about-bis/newsroom/press-releases/3029-2022-06-16-bis-press-release-belavia-tdo/file).

  • US Prosecutors Move to Freeze $5.3 Million in Oligarch’s Assets: On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in New York announced that they were moving to seize more than $5.3 million from a US bank account owned by sanctioned oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev. Malofeyev was the target of OFAC sanctions announced on April 20, though he was previously sanctioned in 2014. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/16/politics/russian-oligarch-konstantin-malofeyev/index.html).

  • Treasury Secretary Praises Banks for Sanctions Partnership: In a Thursday meeting with CEO Members of the Board of Directors of the Bank Policy Institute, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlined the efforts the Treasury Department has made to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. She praised banks for their “strong partnership that financial institutions have had with Treasury to implement historic sanctions and to protect financial institutions from cyber threats. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0820).

UPDATE:

June 15, 2022

  • U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Members of Russian Violent Extremist Group: On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) imposed sanctions on supporters of the Russian Imperial Movement (“RIM”), was previously designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (“SDGT”) organization on April 7, 2020 for having provided training for acts of terrorism. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0817).

  • U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Meets with Ukrainian Cybersecurity Officials: On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink met with the Ukrainian government’s main cybersecurity agency Wednesday and pledged support for Kyiv’s “crucial work” in defending against Russian hacking threats. The meeting discussed a four-year, $38 million U.S. Agency for International Development (“USAID”) program aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s cyber defenses, according to Brink and Ukrainian officials. (https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-06-15-22/h_483bbad7e212d9f0a9272f80d4722ed1).

UPDATE:

June 14, 2022

  • OFAC Issues General License Extending Authorization for Certain Energy Related Transactions: On Tuesday, OFAC released General License 8C, which extends the license for energy related transactions through December 5, 2022. The General License replaces General License 8B, which permitted certain energy related transactions with Sberbank, VTB Bank, Alfa Bank, Vneshcombank, Otkritie, Sovcombank, any bank owned 50% or more by any of these entities, and the Russian Central Bank. General License 8B was set to expire on June 24. OFAC also released administrative updates to several FAQs to reflect the extended deadline. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl8c.pdf; https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/faqs/updated/2022-06-14).

  • PIMCO Warns Treasury of Sanctions’ Impact on U.S. Pension Funds: Executives at Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), have warned U.S. Treasury officials about the potential losses U.S. pension funds will face if fund managers are forced to write down their Russian holdings. The executives have also stressed that a Russian default would allow President Putin to keep foreign currency reserves that would otherwise have been paid to creditors—a potentially lucrative source of funding for the war effort. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-14/pimco-warned-us-treasury-that-russia-sanctions-will-hit-pensions).

  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Discusses Expanded Funding for Sanctions Enforcement: In prepared remarks before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo discussed how the war in Ukraine has impacted the Treasury Department’s budget. After explaining the vastly expanded sanctions program, Deputy Secretary Adeyemo noted that the “President’s FY 2023 request includes a $49 million increase in funding for FinCEN to add some of the personnel required to implement the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Corporate Transparency Act and to continue to build the systems we need to track beneficial ownership and leverage that information to pursue critical national security objectives.” He also discussed enhanced cybersecurity measures to enhance classified information systems needed for sanctions enforcement. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0815).

UPDATE:

June 13, 2022

  • US Officials Warn Against Diversion of Aid for Ukraine: On Monday, The Wall Street Journal published an article summarizing comments from members of Congress calling for increased transparency and oversight of funds headed to Ukraine. Though no reports of malfeasance have yet emerged, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has sent letters to the State Department, USAID and Defense Department to closely review aid to Ukraine, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pushed to include oversight provisions in the initial $40 billion aid package, and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) has introduced standalone legislation implementing a special inspector general for Ukraine. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-billions-going-to-ukraine-officials-warn-of-potential-for-fraud-waste-11655121601).

UPDATE:

June 11, 2022

  • Biden Administration Focused on Seizing Oligarch Assets for Ukraine Reparations, not Central Bank Assets: On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal published a survey of the US response to calls to use frozen Russian Central Bank assets to pay reparations to Ukraine. The prevailing position was best summarized by the National Security Council, which said Friday the administration seeks to ease the seizure of oligarchs’ assets “directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government” and to enable the departments of Justice, Treasury and State to use those funds “to remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine.” Legal experts surveyed said there may be legal avenues to seize central bank assets, but those efforts must be coordinated multilaterally for maximum legitimacy. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/effort-to-force-russia-to-pay-reparations-to-ukraine-faces-uphill-battle-11654939800?mod=hp_lead_pos4).

UPDATE:

June 9, 2022

  • OFAC Issues New FAQs Related to May 8 Directive: On Thursday, OFAC Released the following FAQs related to the May 8 directive banning the provision of certain accounting, trust and corporate formation, and management consulting services to Russia (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/faqs/added/2022-06-09):

    o   FAQ 14072 states that the directive blocks the provision of tax preparation and filing services to any person located in the Russian Federation. This ban does not apply to the export, reexport, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, of tax preparation-related software to the Russian Federation.

    o   FAQ 1067 further clarifies that the directive does not prevent the export, reexport, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, software to the Russian Federation, along with any service associated with the export of such software, like engineering and design, as long as those services do not fall in the definition of management consulting.

    o   FAQ 1066 states that online university courses on accounting, management consulting services, trusts, or corporate formation are permitted, as long as they do not evade the underlying ban on provision of those services to the Russian Federation.

    o   FAQ 1065 states that US persons are prohibited from serving as voting trustees on behalf of or for shares of person located in Russia.

    o   FAQ 1064 states that executive search and vetting services are included in the definition of management consulting and therefore banned under the directive.

    o   FAQ 1063 states that the provision of restricted services to existing companies in Russia are included in the ban.

    o   FAQ 1062 states that a US person working at the US subsidiary of a Russian company may not provide any of the restricted services to the Russian parent company.

    o   FAQ 1061 states that US persons may still work as employees of entities located in Russia, so long as they do not provide any of the restricted services to the company.

    o   FAQ 1060 states that US persons may serve on the board of directors of a company located in the Russian Federation, but would prohibit US persons from providing nominee officer or director services in which a U.S. person is contracted to serve as a nominee officer, director, shareholder, or signatory of a legal person on behalf of a person located in the Russian Federation.

    o   FAQ 1059 states that the directive does not prohibit the provisions of services to a non-Russian company that has a physical presence and operations outside of the Russian Federation, even if the company is owned or controlled by Russian entities, so long as the service is not further exported or reexported to individuals in Russia.

    o   FAQ 1058 defines “person located in the Russian Federation” to “include persons in the Russian Federation, individuals ordinarily resident in the Russian Federation, and entities incorporated or organized under the laws of the Russian Federation or any jurisdiction within the Russian Federation.” 

  • U.S. and Europe Seek to Lower Gas PricesThe Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the U.S. and its allies are working closely to limit further surges in gas prices while at the same time, attempting to cut off revenues to Russia as it increases its oil exports to other regions of the world. One idea under consideration by the G7 is to allow insurers to only cover shipments of Russian oil to non-European countries that fall under a certain price cap. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-european-allies-try-to-restrain-global-oil-prices-11654767002).

UPDATE:

June 8, 2022

  •  Impact of Russian Sanctions on Ransomware Attacks Uncertain: On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported on the unclear impact of sanctions against the ransomware attacks. The U.S. Department of Treasury has released sanctions targeting the financial infrastructure that supports ransomware attacks. Cybersecurity experts note that despite success minimizing the use of money laundering tools, the effect of sanctions to reduce cyberattacks broadly is uncertain. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctions-take-toll-on-laundering-tools-used-by-ransomware-gangs-11654637128).

  • Biden Administration Conflicted on Possible Sanctions Waiver for Belarus Fertilizer Industry In Response to Food Crisis: On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal published a report detailing the divide within the Biden Administration on how to address the food crisis from Russia’s war in Ukraine. The main source of division is over a proposal for a six-month waiver of sanctions on Belarus’s potash fertilizer industry. According to the report, the State Department is against lifting sanctions while the White House’s National Security Council supports considering the proposal. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/looming-food-crisis-related-to-ukraine-war-divides-biden-administration-11654639588).

  •  US and Six Allies Announce Resumption of Participation in Arctic Council Activities That Do Not Involve Russia: On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department released a joint statement with Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden announcing the limited resumption of projects in the Arctic Council that do not involve Russia. Involvement by the U.S. and others has been on hold since March 3. (https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-limited-resumption-of-arctic-council-cooperation/).

UPDATE:

June 7, 2022

  • OFAC Issues Clarifying Guidance on “New Investment” Ban:   OFAC provided Frequently Asked Questions about the U.S. sanctions regime: (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/faqs/added/2022-06-06).  OFAC addresses a number of issues in the guidance, including but not limited to:

    o   Defining “new investment” broadly to include a commitment of capital or other assets for the purpose of generating returns or appreciation made after the effective date of the Executive Order, including those pursuant to an agreement entered into before the Executive Order.  (FAQ 1049).

    o   “Maintenance” and “Divestment”-Related Exclusions – OFAC recognizes certain limited exclusions relating to “maintenance” of pre-existing operations and contractual commitments, and of “divestment”, each subject to several important conditions and fact-specific limitations.  (FAQs 1050, 1051, 1052 and 1053). 

    o   Potential Reach to Dealings Outside Russia –  The guidance reflects that the reach of the new investment ban can expand to transactions outside Russia under certain circumstances.  In addressing debt and equity transactions involving entities located outside the Russian Federation, OFAC states that the ban on new investment in Russia would not extend to such transactions “provided that” (i) such funds are not specifically intended for new projects or operations in the Russian Federation and (ii) the revenues of the entity located outside the Russian Federation are not predominantly derived from its investments in the Russian Federation.  (FAQ 1055).

    o   Purchase of Debt and Equity Securities – Notably, OFAC’s guidance reflects expansive positions relating to debt and equity securities issued by an entity in the Russian Federation in several respects.  The guidance confirms that US Persons may not purchase new or existing debt and equity securities issued by an entity in Russia, whether or not sanctioned.  This supplements and expands previous restrictions involving equity and debt restrictions, including secondary market transactions involving sovereign debt and raises certain interpretive issues for holders of such debt in an event of default.   The guidance also confirms the ban could also be implicated in the context of funds with holdings that include Russian debt or equity securities investments, at least where the holdings represent “a predominant share by value”.  (FAQs 1054 and amended FAQ 1005).

  • Treasury Secretary Says Inflation Here to Stay, Blames Russian Invasion: At a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers that “[t]here’s no question that we have huge inflation pressures, that inflation is really our top economic problem at this point and that it’s critical we address it.” She added that, “Putin’s war in Ukraine is having impacts on energy and food prices globally,” and that it is “virtually impossible for us to insulate ourselves.” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-07/yellen-defends-biden-spending-as-she-acknowledges-inflation-woes).

UPDATE:

June 6, 2022

UPDATE:

June 4, 2022

  • Chevron CEO Says Russia Still Able to Export Oil: In a meeting with The Wall Street Journal this week, Chevron CEO Mike Wirth stated that Russia is still exporting oil despite increasing sanctions on the country, but noted that the departure of Western oil companies from the country will reduce production numbers. He compared the situation in Russia to the one in Iran and Venezuela, where production eroded over time. Wirth stated that Saudi Arabia has excess capacity to make up for any losses in Russian production. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/chevron-ceo-sees-russian-oil-output-falling-after-exit-of-western-firms-11654344001?mod=hp_lista_pos1).

  • US Skeptical that UN-Led Talks Will Lead to Ukrainian Grain Exports: Speaking toPolitico on Sunday, unnamed US government officials stated that they were not optimistic that UN-led negotiations with Russia will lead to increased grain exports from Ukraine. The officials said that Russia’s insistence on sanctions relief in exchange for grain exports was not an option, and doubted that UN negotiators would get Russia to change its position. (https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/05/un-russia-ukraine-grain-00037240).

UPDATE:

June 3, 2022

  • Department of Justice Official Discusses Work of KleptoCapture Task Force:  In an interview with Politico Thursday, Director of the KleptoCapture Task Force at DOJ, Andrew Adams, highlighted the role of international partners in effectuating U.S. and European sanctions on Russian nationals. He also noted that he hoped DOJ would create a “permanent [ ] clearinghouse for thinking about sanctions,” adding that, “A major part of the work in the first several months of the task force has been coordination, and coordination of foreign partners and essentially giving them an outlet to plug into for their own efforts. Going forward that should, that can, exist, and I think people understand that that should just exist as easy as plug and play for the next kind of crisis that exists in this space.” (https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/06/02/kleptocapture-is-about-more-than-russian-yachts-00036743).

  • BIS Issues New Russia/Belarus Export Control Updates, Updates Enforcement Procedures: On Thursday, June 2, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued a new rule updating Russia and Belarus export controls and making changes to its enforcement procedures, including the following:

     

    o   Extending license requirements for Russian and Belarussian military end uses and military end users to previously excluded EAR99 food and medicine items, and corresponding adjustments to Russian and Belarusian military end users on the Entity List. License applications will be subject to case by case review.

    o   Revised EAR restrictions for items destined for certain regions of Ukraine, including new categories of transactions subject to case-by-case review.

    o   Clarifications to the Russia Industry Sector Sanctions Rule, including Supplements 2 and 4.

    o   Amending the EAR to make charging letters publicly available in future export enforcement cases prior to the final administrative disposition of such cases to allow BIS to heighten awareness of ongoing proceedings and export enforcement. (https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2022-11885.pdf).

  • U.S. DOJ Official Highlights Indictments of Russian Hackers:  In remarks before the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olson noted that the DOJ is “particularly focused right now on the cyber threat from Russia, and we are bracing for the possibility of more attacks.” He also emphasized DOJ’s “all tools” approach, noting that it will “continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals for malicious cyber activity,” including Russian nationals. (https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/assistant-attorney-general-national-security-matthew-g-olsen-delivers-remarks-nato).

UPDATE:

June 2, 2022

  • Treasury Imposes Additional Sanctions on Russian Elites: On Thursday, Treasury Department added over thirty new names to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list targeting assets and individuals used by Russian President Vladimir Putin to evade U.S. sanctions. The sanctions target several yachts and private jets linked to Russian oligarchs, a yacht brokerage with ties to the Kremlin, Russian government officials, and Putin’s financial custodian and close friend Sergei Roldugin. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0802).

  • State Department Adds Further Designations of Russian Oligarchs and Elites, Close Family Members and Affiliated Entities.  In coordination with the Treasury Department, the State Department also added several designations which will in turn be added to Treasury’s SDN List.  The additions include eight individuals, including Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and prominent oligarch Alexey Mordashov and his family. In addition, the State Department designated four of Mordashov’s companies, Severgroup, Severstal, Algoritm, and Nord Gold. All designated individuals will be added to the SDN list. (https://www.state.gov/promoting-accountability-and-imposing-costs-on-the-russian-federation-and-its-enablers-for-putins-aggression-against-ukraine/).

     

  • Treasury Issues Four General Licenses Related to the New Sanctions: The Treasury Department issued four Russia-related General Licenses consistent with the newly imposed sanctions from the Treasury and State Departments:

    o   General License 25B adds Algoritm as an unauthorized party for transactions related to telecommunications and certain internet-based communications; 

    o   General License 36 authorizes the wind down of transactions involving Severstal and any entity owned 50 percent or more, directly or indirectly, by Severstal through 12:01am est on August 31, 2022;

    o   General License 37 authorizes the wind down of transactions involving Nord Gold and any entity owned 50 percent or more, directly or indirectly, by Nord Gold through 12:01am est on July 1, 2022; and

    o   General License 38 authorizes transactions related to pension payments to U.S. persons that are otherwise blocked by E.O. 14024. 

     

  • Secretary of State Blinken Discusses Ukraine with UK Foreign Secretary Truss: In a call with UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss on Thursday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke to the importance of transatlantic unity against Russian aggression and the need to ensure vital agricultural commodities can leave Ukraine to provide the world critical food supplies. (https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-call-with-uk-foreign-secretary-truss-8/).

UPDATE:

June 1, 2022

  • Fractures Emerge Within the Biden Administration Over Potential Russian Energy Sector Sancfions: Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Biden Administration is divided in its efforts to punish Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. One faction, led by officials in the State Department and White House are urging the President to impose secondary sanctions on Russian oil exports. Another, comprised by officials at the Treasury Department, are urging the President to impose a cap on oil prices in order to allow countries to buy Russian energy while limiting its revenues at the same time.  (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-01/us-wavers-over-next-russia-sanctions-as-fears-of-divide-grow).

  • U.S. Taskforce Zeroes In on Oligarchs’ Assets:The New York Times reported Wednesday that KleptoCapture, a multi-agency investigative taskforce has begun gathering evidence to disrupt and prosecute businesses and individuals who knowingly assisted Russian individuals’ efforts to evade U.S. sanctions. The Report noted that the U.S. is working alongside investigators from Europe to uncover the ownership behind the networks of shell companies listed as owning superyachts, Italian villas, and the like. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/01/world/europe/russia-oligarchs-yachts-middlemen.html)

     

UPDATE:

May 31, 2022

  • Debate Within Biden Administration About Seizing Russian Assets to Help Ukraine: Amid increased global calls for seizure of sanctioned Russian assets, including support from some EU member states, discussion at the G7, and Congressional proposals, Biden administration officials are debating how to find a common ground with the EU on a seizure of certain sanctioned Russian funds (including Russian Central Bank funds) and possible ramifications (including the legality under US law and the risk of other countries putting their central bank reserves in non-US Dollar currencies). Canada is also considering similar measures.  (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/us/politics/russia-sanctions-central-bank-assets.html).

     

UPDATE:

May 30, 2022

UPDATE:

May 29, 2022

UPDATE:

May 27, 2022

  • Treasury Sanctions Russian Banks for Facilitating Payments for North Korea: On Friday, the Treasury Department added new names to the Specially Designated Nationals list in connection with new missile activity in North Korea. Two of the new designations are for the Far Eastern Bank and Bank Sputnik, two Russian banks that facilitated payments on behalf of North Korean entities. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0801).

  • Secretary of State Blinken Calls Ukrainian Counterpart: On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for the second time this week. The pair discussed food security issues stemming from the conflict in Ukraine, and Secretary Blinken stated that the US and its allies will continue to support Ukraine through the crisis and its consequences. (https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-call-with-ukrainian-foreign-minister-kuleba-24/).

  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman in Europe to Discuss Black Sea Blockade: During meetings in Europe this week, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) spoke to various officials on the issue of food security emanating from the conflict in Ukraine. He stated that the blockade and restricted food exports are contributing to starvation and increases in food prices worldwide. (https://thegrio.com/2022/05/27/white-house-sanctions-russia-grains-food-shortages/).

UPDATE:

May 26, 2022

  • US Rules Out Sanctions Relief for Russia in Exchange for Grain Exports: Speaking on Thursday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price ruled out sanctions relief in exchange for grain exports from Ukraine and Russia, saying, “I think we have – all have good reason to be skeptical when we hear various pledges and offers from Russia.” (https://news.yahoo.com/us-rules-lifting-russia-sanctions-093300132.html).  

  • Secretary of State Blinken Criticizes China’s Ties with Russia: In a speech on Thursday outlining the administration’s China policy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized recent meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure a sphere of influence in Europe should raise alarm bells for all of us who call the Indo-Pacific region home.” (https://www.state.gov/the-administrations-approach-to-the-peoples-republic-of-china/).

  • Treasury Sanctions Iranian Groups with Russian Ties: In sanctioning 10 people from four countries and nine companies on Wednesday, the Treasury Department took action against an international oil smuggling and money laundering network led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qods Force. The ring has deep ties in Russia, according to the release. Two of the sanctioned individuals were Kamaluddin Gulam Nabizada, a former Afghanistan ministry official in Moscow, who is accused of raising money for the IRGC-QF with the help of senior Russian government and intelligence officials, and his associate, Mihrab Suhrab Hamidi, who specializes in oil trades. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2022/05/26/sanctions-Iran-oil-smuggling-network/6351653535986/).

  •  Energy Secretary Says Russia “Weaponizing” Energy: While speaking at a General Electric facility on Thursday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that Russia is “weaponizing energy, which is another reason why as a nation, we should move to energy sources that cannot be weaponized.” She cited recent gas shutoffs in Poland and Finland as proof of this trend. The remainder of her speech focused on domestic energy production. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/26/business/russia-oil-gas-ukraine-granholm/index.html).

UPDATE:

May 25, 2022

  • Treasury Department Extends Russia General License 13A: On Wednesday, the Treasury Department issued General License 13A, which permits US persons to pay taxes, fees, or import duties, and purchase or receive permits, licenses, registrations, or certifications, regardless of whether these transactions violate restrictions on payments with the Russian Central Bank, National Wealth Fund, and Ministry of Finance. The new license is valid until 12:01am on September 30, 2022. (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/russia_gl13a.pdf).

  • Treasury Official Outlines Russia Sanctions Program at Anti-Money Laundering Conference:Speaking on Wednesday at SIFMA’s Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Conference, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the United States Brian Nelson discussed the Treasury Department’s efforts to sanction Russia. He stated that the measures to date are intended to hinder the Russian economy, notably the defense sector, and to improve enforcement. He thanked the private sector for their partnership in this effort, highlighting the Department’s guidance, outreach, and enforcement measures as ways to inform the public. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0800).

  • Nike Leaving Russian Market: On Wednesday, Nike announced that it would not extend its franchise agreement with Russia’s Inventive Retail Group (“IRG”) the largest retailer of Nike products in the country. The stores will close once all goods are sold. Nike previously suspended online sales in Russia and closed all of its shops, including ones operating under franchise agreements, in the country. (https://www.rferl.org/a/nike-marks-spencer-leave-russia-ukraine-war/31867200.html).

UPDATE:

May 24, 2022

  • Treasury Declines to Renew Russian Sovereign Debt License: On Tuesday, the Treasury Department announced that it would not extend General License 9C, which permits US persons to process interest payments on Russian sovereign debt held with the Russian central bank, the national wealth fund of the Russian Federation, or the Russian Ministry of Finance. The license also permitted other wind-down activity related to debt held at the following Russian banks: Vneshcombank, Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank, Sberbank, VTB, or any entity owned 50 percent or more by any of those entities. The license for these transactions was set to expire tomorrow, though several reports indicated that the Department was unlikely to renew the license. The move increases the likelihood that Russia will default on its debt. (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20220524_33;https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/24/us/politics/russian-debt-treasury.html).

  • Secretary of State Discusses Food Security with Ukrainian Counterpart: On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba. The two discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts related to the war in Ukraine, including food security issues related to the conflict. The two also discussed the recently passed $40 billion assistance package that Congress approved for Ukraine. (https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-call-with-ukrainian-foreign-minister-kuleba-23/).

UPDATE:

May 23, 2022

UPDATE:

May 22, 2022

  • YouTube Blocks Pro-Invasion Content: On Sunday, YouTube announced that it had removed 9,000 channels and 70,000 individual videos for a violation of YouTube’s major violent events policy. YouTube did not provide a breakdown by topic of reviewed videos, but YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said, “I don’t have the specific numbers, but you can imagine a lot of it being the narratives that are coming from Russian government, or Russian actors on behalf of the Russian government.” (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/may/22/youtube-ukraine-invasion-russia-video-removals).

  • American Companies Operating in Russia Face Legal And Practical Landmines: On Friday, The New York Times published an article profiling US steel company Arconic, whose facility in Samara, Russia remains open. The company’s predicament illustrates a larger concern: sanctions on Russia have made it difficult for the company to continue operating (though there is no indication that Arconic is operating in violation of US sanctions itself), but if it suspends operations in Russia due to sanctions, it risks liability under new Russian laws. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/20/world/europe/russia-ukraine-arconic-samara.html).

UPDATE:

May 20, 2022

  • BIS Issues Temporary Denial Order Against Fifth Russian Airline, Names Plane in Violation of Export Controls: On Friday, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) announced an order denying export privileges for Rossiya Airlines, the fifth Russian airline to receive such a designation from the office. The Temporary Denial Order suspends Rossiya Airlines’ rights to participate in transactions subject to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”), and will remain in place for 180 days, subject to renewal. BIS also publicly identified a 787 Dreamliner owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich as an aircraft in likely violation of US export controls, the second plane owned by Abramovich to receive the designation. The notification alerts the public that any form of service to the aircraft subject to the EAR will require US government authorization. (https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/about-bis/newsroom/press-releases/2994-2022-05-20-press-release-bis-rossiya-tdo-and-list-update-final/file).

  • President Biden to Sign Ukraine Assistance Bill During Trip to Asia: National Security Council staff confirmed to CNN on Friday that President Biden intends to sign the recently-passed $40 billion Ukraine assistance package into law during his trip to Asia this week. The Senate passed the legislation on Thursday, after the President and his delegation had already departed for Korea; the bill will be flown to Korea with a person who was already traveling to the region for their official duties. (https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-20-22/h_7d77e8ea071145ebe3f241334a553418).

UPDATE:

May 19, 2022

  • McDonald’s Finds Buyer for Russian Business License: In keeping with its announcement to end Russian business earlier in the week, McDonald’s stated on Thursday that it had agreed to sell its Russian business license to Alexander Govor, an existing McDonald’s licensee. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the agreement requires McDonald’s to retain employees for at least two years on equivalent terms and fund corporate salaries until closing. The new company cannot use McDonald’s branding or menus. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/mcdonalds-to-sell-russian-business-to-licensee-11652963542?mod=livecoverage_web).

UPDATE:

May 18, 2022

  • Treasury Secretary Expresses Preference to Let Russian Debt License Expire: Speaking at a press conference in Bonn, Germany on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was asked about recent reports regarding negotiations at the Department on allowing General License 9A, which permits US persons to collect Russian sovereign debt payments, to expire. She stated, “The expectation was that it was time limited. So, I think it’s reasonably likely that the license will be allowed to expire. There has not been a final decision on that. But I think it’s unlikely that it would, you know, it would continue.” (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0793).

UPDATE:

May 17, 2022

  •  US Reportedly Letting Russian Sovereign Debt License Expire: Sources at the Treasury Department told Bloomberg on Tuesday that they plan to let General License 9A, which permitted US persons to receive payments from the Russian Central Bank for repayment of sovereign debt obligations, to expire. Though the move is not final, it would significantly hinder Russia’s ability to pay its sovereign debts. The next round of Russian debt payments are due on May 26; the country narrowly escaped default earlier this month. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-17/us-set-to-block-russian-debt-payments-raising-odds-of-default).

  • Commerce Department Enforcememt Official Discusses Enforcement of Russia Sanctions: During a speech to the Society for International Affairs on Monday, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matt Axelrod discussed efforts already taken to sanction Russia, and the Department’s intended next steps. After summarizing enforcement actions under the new Russia sanctions to date, he discussed future restrictions, saying that the Department would be changing its policies on administrative enforcement in order to ensure compliance with the new export control laws. His proposed reforms included publicizing charging letters, reconsidering use of no admit/no deny settlements, and increasing penalty amounts. (https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/about-bis/newsroom/press-releases/2992-2022-05-16-remarks-as-axelrod-to-sia/file).

  • Treasury Department to Ease Sanctions on Venezuela, Allowing European Companies to Export Venezuelan Energy Products: On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the Treasury Department plans to reduce sanctions on Venezuela, which will allow European companies operating in Venezuela to divert Venezuelan oil to the EU. Major oil producer Chevron will also be allowed to negotiate a resumption of operations in the country. The move is likely an effort to ease the pain of impending restrictions on EU imports of Russian oil. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-17/us-to-lift-some-sanctions-on-venezuelan-oil-ease-chevron-talks).

  • Treasury Secretary Praises European Efforts to Restrict Russian Energy Imports During Trip to Brussels: On Tuesday, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen visited Brussels, where she met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as well as European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and European Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni. She also spoke at the Brussels Economic Forum, where she praised EU efforts to reduce dependence on Russian oil, saying “I know that Europe is facing a uniquely difficult situation, given existing infrastructure and supply contracts with Russia over the near term.  That is why I commend European leaders for their proposal to phase out all Russian energy supplies within six months.” She added that the conflict indicates that the EU and US should rely on allies, not Russia and China, for sourcing raw materials. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0789;https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0789).

  •  Ukraine Aid Bill Clears Senate Procedural Hurdle: On Monday evening, the Senate voted to advance the $40 billion assistance package for Ukraine passed by the House by a vote of 81-11. All 11 votes against the bill came from Republicans concerned about increased government spending. Senate leadership expects a final vote on the legislation later this week. (https://news.yahoo.com/11-republican-senators-vote-against-232243255.html).

  •  Commerce Department Confirms Reduction in Chinese Exports to Russia: Speaking to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, The Washington Post confirmed export figures first reported by The Wall Street Journal indicating that Chinese exports of laptops to Russia fell by 40 percent in March, and Chinese exports of telecommunications network equipment to Russia fell by 98 percent in March. The Secretary said that these figures indicate the success of US export control programs. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/17/china-russia-tech-exports/).

UPDATE:

May 16, 2022

  • US-EU Trade and Technology Council Joint Statement Highlights Export Controls, Supply Chain Security: On Monday, the US-EU Trade and Technology Council released a joint statement from US and EU parties on their recent meeting. Among other items, the parties committed to “build on and enhance…collaboration” on controls on exports to Russia, and to “develop a common early warning and monitoring mechanism on semiconductor value chains” due to supply chain disruptions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. The joint statement also demonstrates a commitment to further investment in Ukraine. (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_3034).

  • Treasury Secretary Visits Poland: From May 14 to 16, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Poland. The Secretary met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Finance Minister Magdalena Rzeczkowska and Governor of Narodowy Bank Polski Adam Glapiński during her visit. She welcomed the country’s leadership in holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine, and also promoted international efforts to combat rising food insecurity as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0786https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0783).

  • McDonalds Selling Russian Business: On Monday, McDonalds announced that it was selling all business units and restaurants in Russia; it had previously temporarily closed all business operations in Russia. After the sale to a local buyer, the restaurants will no longer use the McDonalds name, logo, branding, or menu. In connection with the exit, McDonald’s said it expects to record an accounting charge of between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion, and recognize a significant foreign currency translation loss. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/mcdonalds-to-exit-from-russia-11652697074).

UPDATE:

May 15, 2022

  • Support Builds for Enhanced Sanctions on Russian Gold, Diamonds: Though the US has already imposed sanctions on Russian diamond company Alrosa, jewelry made with Russian diamonds and gold is still entering the US after it is further processed in other countries. Members of Congress like Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) are organizing bipartisan letters to the Treasury Department to close this loophole, and private companies like Tiffany and Signet are independently investigating their supply chains and publicly committing to not use Russian diamonds. Jewelers with tighter profit margins may have difficulty in implementing these measures, as gold with a fully traceable supply chain, for example, can cost 20 percent more than other gold. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-its-so-hard-to-keep-russian-diamonds-and-gold-out-of-the-u-s-despite-sanctions-11652526180?mod=hp_lead_pos2).

  • Senate Minority Leader Supports Designating Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism: During remarks in Stockholm, Sweden on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he supported designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, saying “The president could do it on his own, and I would urge him to do it.” He also called on the Senate to quickly pass a $40 billion package of military assistance to Ukraine. Senator McConnell recently visited Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, along with Senators John Barasso (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John Cornyn (R-TX). (https://thehill.com/news/senate/3489027-mcconnell-urges-biden-to-name-russia-a-state-sponsor-of-terrorism/).

  • Secretary of State Says NATO Prepared to Continue Sanctions “As Long As Necessary”:During press availability before meetings with NATO foreign ministers on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Every member of the Alliance wants to bring this war to an end as soon as possible, but we’re equally determined to maintain our security assistance to Ukraine, to continue our sanctions, export controls, and diplomatic pressure on Russia for as long as it’s necessary.” (https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-press-availability-18/).

  • Russia Features Prominently in Treasury Department’s 2022 Illicit Finance Strategy: On Friday, the Treasury Department released its 2022 National Strategy for Combatting Terrorist and Other Illicit Financing. As the first strategy published since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the report mentions illicit finance activity involved in Russian sanctions evasion many times, and the Department promises to “(1) continue to identify and seize U.S. assets owned or controlled by designated Russians, including through the KleptoCapture and Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) task forces; and (2) improve detection and reporting by financial institutions and other private sector entities of Russian sanctions evasion.” (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/2022-National-Strategy-for-Combating-Terrorist-and-Other-Illicit-Financing.pdf).

UPDATE:

May 13, 2022

  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Urges International Banks to Stop Supporting Russia Sanctions Evasion: In private meetings on Friday, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo met with representatives of international banks to lay out the consequences of helping Russians break sanctions. He focused on the “material support provision” that allows the US to take action if foreign domiciled banks help Russians evade sanctions. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/13/us/politics/russia-sanctions-evasion-treasury.html).

  • Treasury Secretary Traveling to Europe: On Friday, the Treasury Department announced that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to the G7 finance ministers meeting on May 19 and 20 in Germany. Prior to the meeting, she will travel to Warsaw, Poland and Brussels, Belgium. The travel announcement indicates that the Secretary and allies will “continue their united efforts to support Ukraine and to increase economic pressure on Russia to end its brutal and illegal war” during the trip. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0780).

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