Global Russia Sanctions Update
Legal Development 23 February 2022 23 February 2022
A number of states and international actors have unveiled further sanctions measures on Russia in relation to its activities in or in relation to Ukraine.
In a previous post, we outlined the initial measures imposed by the US and UK on Russia in relation to its recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk. We consider below the further actions taken by the US, EU, UK, and Australia in this regard.
On 22 February 2022, the US issued the following additional sanctions measures against Russia:
- Directive 1A, issued under Executive Order 14024 (EO 14024), prohibits US Persons (including US citizens and companies) from participating in the secondary market for ruble and non-ruble denominated bonds issued after March 1, 2022 by the Russian Central Bank, National Wealth Fund or Ministry of Finance. According to an accompanying US Treasury Department press release of the same date (link):
"This kind of measure creates a strain on resources for the Russian state and greater risk for its ability to manage its finances."
- The US blocked and designated as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under EO 14024 two major Russian financial institutions – the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB) – and, collectively, 42 of their subsidiaries.
The accompanying US Treasury press release states:
"VEB is crucial to Russia’s ability to raise funds, and PSB is critical to Russia's defense sector. These sanctions ensure VEB and PSB can no longer do business in the United States and are cut off from the U.S. financial system. All assets under U.S. jurisdiction will be immediately frozen and U.S. individuals and entities are prohibited from doing business with these institutions unless authorized by OFAC."
- Five vessels owned by PSB Lizing OOO, a designated subsidiary of PSB, were also placed on the SDN list.
- Three individuals were also designated, and two others redesignated, as SDNs under EO 14024. These individuals are described in the US Treasury press release as:
"Elites close to Putin [who] leverage their proximity to the Russian President to pillage the Russian state, enrich themselves, and elevate their family members into some of the highest positions of power in the country at the expense of the Russian people."
- The US also issued two General Licenses on 22 February.
- General License 2 authorizes transactions with VEB that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the servicing of bonds issued before March 1, 2022 by the Russian Central Bank, National Wealth Fund and Ministry of Finance.
General License 3 authorizes, but only until March 24, 2022, transactions that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind down of transactions involving VEB or its subsidiaries.
On 23 February 2022, the European Union enacted a package of sanctions on Russia containing the following measures:
- Imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on 351 members of the Russian State Duma;
- Imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on 27 individuals and entities alleged to be playing a role in undermining or threatening Ukrainian territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. These persons comprise of:
- Banks that are financing Russian decision-makers and other operations in Donetsk and Luhansk, namely Rossiya Bank, PSB, and VEB.
- The decision-makers responsible for threatening Ukraine and entities supporting financially and materially, or benefiting from them, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu;
- Those in the defence sector said to have played a role in the invasion and destabilisation actions; and
- Persons alleged to be waging a disinformation war against Ukraine.
- Prohibitions on trade between the EU and the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
- Restrictions on the ability of the Russian state to access EU capital and financial markets and services.
EU leaders have signalled that further measures could be imposed in the coming days.
Further to the designations of five Russian banks and three Russian individuals on 22 February 2022, the UK Foreign Secretary has also stated that:
- The UK is taking steps to designate members of the Russian State Duma and Federation Council who voted to recognise the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.
- Over the “coming weeks” the UK will extend the territorial sanctions imposed on Crimea to non-government controlled territory in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Foreign Secretary further warned that if the UK considers there to be "further aggression", it will, amongst other things,:
- Seek to curtail the ability of the Russian state and Russian companies to raise funds in UK financial markets;
- Target the Russian financial sector and trade;
- Prohibit a range of technological exports; and
- Prevent Russia from issuing sovereign debt on UK markets.
On 23 February 2022, the Australian Prime Minister announced that Australia will enact sanctions against Russia in response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. A special Federal Executive Council meeting with the Governor-General in Sydney is scheduled for the morning of 24 February 2022 to enable the government to immediately impose these measures.
The following extant sanctions measures in respect of Russia will be expanded in scope:
- Restrictions on export or supply of arms or related matériel and items suited for use in deep water offshore oil exploration, oil production projects or shale fracking projects in Russia.
- Restrictions on the import, purchase or transport of arms or related matériel if they originate in or have been exported from Russia.
- Restrictions on dealing with financial instruments issued by, or providing loans or credit to, specified Russian banks, companies, or majority owned subsidiaries or entities acting as agent for the same.
- Restrictions on the provision of services that relate to the above mentioned sanctioned goods.
The Australian Government will also impose additional travel bans and asset freezes on 8 members of the security council of the Russian Federation. Like the UK Government, the Australian Government will enact targeted financial sanctions against the following Russian banks:
- Rossiya Bank
- IS Bank
- General Bank
- Promsvyazbank and
- Black Sea Bank.
Specifically in relation to the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Prime Minister announced the Government will amend the Autonomous Sanctions Regulation 2011 reg. 5C to extend existing sanctions that apply to Crimea and Sevastopol to these regions:
- Restrictions on the export or supply of certain items relating to:
- the transport, telecommunications or energy sectors
- the energy and natural resources industries
- Restrictions on the import, purchase or transport of any goods if the goods originate in, or are exported from, the Donetsk and Luhansk (subject to exceptions relating to actions taken by Ukrainian officials
- Restrictions on certain commercial activities such as financing or jointly developing infrastructure in the transport, telecommunications or energy sectors or oil and gas projects in the breakaway regions
- Restrictions on the provision of certain services which relate to the sanctioned goods or activities
Australian businesses were also warned by the Home Affairs Minister that Russia may target Australian critical infrastructure with cyber attacks in retaliation.
Over the last few days, we have seen states and international actors converging on an aligned set of sanctions measures in response to Russia’s actions in or in relation to Ukraine. Now that there is a sense as to the gradual steps that might be taken should the Ukraine situation persist or escalate, this should focus proactive efforts to mitigate against sanctions and other risks arising from such steps (for example, the designation of further Russian financial institutions and state-owned companies).