Additional US, EU and UK sanctions against Russia, and new Norwegian sanctions

Since our update on 14 March 2022, the EU, UK and US have announced additional sanctions following Russia's continued military aggression against Ukraine. In addition, Norway has implemented much of the EU sanctions imposed in the recent months.

We summarise the main points of these developments below. In addition, we provide an overview of recent developments regarding Russian counter-sanctions.

Norwegian sanctions

Alignment with EU sanctions up until and including 9 March 2022

On 18 March 2022, Norway adopted a first wave of sanctions in response to Russia's recent aggressive acts towards Ukraine. The sanctions adds to the sanctions regime that Norway has imposed on Russia since 2014, and are aligned with the sanctions adopted by the EU from 23 February 2022 up until, and including, 9 March 2022 (except for media related sanctions, as set out below), and the individual designations made on 15 March 2022.

Hence, the Norwegian sanctions adopted 18 March 2022 broadly include targeted asset freezing measures, financial sector sanctions and sectoral sanctions directed at the energy and transport sectors, as well as export control measures. Our previous updates relating to the corresponding EU measures are available here.

Notably, the Norwegian sanctions implemented 18 March 2022 excludes the EU measures imposed against Russian state-owned media outlets on 2 March 2022 (described in our previous update available here). Norwegian authorities have stated that they will assess autonomously whether these sanctions will be transposed to Norwegian law, in light of basic principles relating to the freedom of speech.

Further sanctions will come

The remaining EU sanctions imposed after 9 March 2022 (including the sanctions imposed 15 March 2022 as described in the EU section below) are currently being assessed by Norwegian authorities and is expected to be implemented in the near future. 

An updated version of the Norwegian regulation concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine (FOR-2014-08-15-1076) is available here. A recent Q&A from Norwegian authorities on the new sanctions is available here.

In addition to the sanction targeting Russia, Norwegian authorities have stated that they are working on implementing the recent EU sanctions targeting Belarus, over the Belarusian involvement in Russia's aggression.

EU sanctions

On 15 March 2022, the EU adopted its fourth sanction package against Russia. In brief, and as expected (see our previous sanction alert here), the sanctions essentially include the following measures (with certain exceptions and possibilities for derogations):

  • Prohibition to directly or indirectly engage in "any transaction" with: (a) state-owned entities listed in Annex XIX; (b) non-EU entities directly or indirectly owned for more than 50% by the listed entities; and (c) legal persons, entities and bodies acting on behalf of or at the direction of any of the above.

Notably, the above prohibition does not apply to: 

  • the execution until 15 May 2022 of contracts concluded before 16 March 2022 or ancillary contracts necessary for the execution of such contracts;
  • transactions which are strictly necessary for the purchase, import or transport of fossil fuels, titanium, aluminium, copper, nickel, palladium and iron ore from or through Russia into the EU;
  • transactions related to "energy projects" outside Russia in which entity listed in Annex XIX is only a minority shareholder.
  • Prohibitions targeting new investments in the Russian "energy sector" (with possibilities for derogations).
  • Ban on the direct or indirect import, purchase or transport of certain (listed) iron and steel products if they originate in Russia or have been exported from Russia (with an exception for certain prior contracts).
  • Prohibition on the sale, supply, transfer or export, directly or indirectly, of a host of (listed) luxury goods to or for use in Russia.
  • Export restrictions targeting equipment, technology and services for the energy industry in Russia (with the exception of the nuclear industry and the downstream sector of energy transport), and expanding the tightened export controls on dual-use goods and technology which might contribute to the technological enhancement of Russia's defence and security sector.
  • Prohibition on the provision of credit rating services and ban on the access to any subscription services in relation to credit rating activities to Russian clients.

Further details on the above restrictions, as well as exceptions and possibilities for derogations, may be found in Council Regulation (EU) 2022/428 cf. Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/430.

Furthermore, the EU imposed targeted sanctions against additional individuals and entities, including (i) 15 individuals described as oligarchs, prominent business people and "pro-Russian" media persons; and (ii) 9 new entities operating in the aviation, military and dual use, shipbuilding and machine building sectors, cf. Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/427 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/429.

UK sanctions  

On 15 March 2022, the UK announced designations of over 370 additional Russian and Belarussian sanctions, referring to these measures as a "historic round of sanctions" (press release is available here). 51 of those designated are described to be oligarchs and their family members, while the rest are Putin's political allies, as well as propagandists. The vast majority of the new designations were made under the new UK Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act ("ECA"), which was given Royal Assent the same day. The ECA inter alia provides the authority to expedite the imposition of individual sanctions by allowing the government to act in the public interest and immediately designate individuals and entities under urgent procedure, while evidence is gathered to sanction them under standard procedure.

Furthermore, the UK announced on 15 March a ban on exports to Russia of high-end luxury goods, while simultaneously hitting hundreds of key products with new import tariffs (that represent a 35 percentage point hike on current rates).

Also, on 15 March 2022, the UK announced that they will deny Russia and Belarus access to Most Favoured Nation tariff for hundreds of their exports, depriving both nations key benefits of WTO membership (press release available here).

US sanctions

On 15 March 2022, the US added additional individuals and entities to its SDN List.

First, certain individuals were designated for operating or have operated in the Russian defence and related materiel sector, as described in this press release from the State Department.

Second, OFAC designated individuals and one entity pursuant to the Russia Magnitsky Act, for being involved in concealing events surrounding the death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky or for being connected to gross violations of human rights against Russian human rights defender Oyub Titiev. In addition, OFAC redesignated Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus. The press release from OFAC is available here, and identifying information about the designated individuals and entity is available here.

As usual, the above SDN designations mean that all transactions by US persons or occurring within (or transiting) the US that involve any property or interests in property of the designated persons (including entities owned 50% or more by such persons) are prohibited unless explicitly authorized by US authorities.

On 21 February 2022, OFAC issued General License 24 which authorizes certain transactions related to the provision or receipt of civil maritime services related to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. 

Asset freezing task forces set up to ensure efficiency of sanctions

On 17 March 2022, the EU announced its "Freeze and Seize" Task Force, which is set up to ensure EU-level coordination to implement sanctions against listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs.

The EU Task Force will work alongside the multinational "Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO)" Task Force, under which the EU operates together with the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) as well as Australia, which was launched the same day (joint statement 17 March 2022 is available here).

Russian countermeasures

Draft law on external administration of foreign companies related to "unfriendly states"

On 16 March 2022, Russian media reported (in Russian) that the Federal Tax Service and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation had submitted their comments to the draft law which intends to allow for the external administration of foreign companies related to "unfriendly states" that have left or are planning to leave Russia. One of the proposals from these entities is that the Russian Government should be empowered to establish which types of companies that will be subject to external administration. We recall that the draft as of now only is intended to apply to companies in which (i) more than 25 % of the shares are owned by foreign persons from "unfriendly states"; (ii) the book value of the assets are valued at more than 1 billion roubles; and (iii) more than 100 persons are employed on overage. However, if this new proposal is adopted, the Russian Government could, at its own discretion, subsequently expand the scope of the proposed law to smaller companies.

The Federal Tax Service and Central Bank further proposed that the law should allow for the transfer of foreign-held shares to a Russian trust management, in the name of the trust management company, for one year (with possible extensions by decision from the court), as an alternative to a forced sale/auctioning of the company.

Draft law on criminalisation of compliance with Western sanctions

Since our last update, Russian media has not reported on any developments, or provided any further details, on the legislation that intends to criminalise compliance with Western sanctions, which was proposed last Monday by United Russia (Russia's ruling party). However, there is reason to assume that this proposal will be similar, or identical, to a previous draft law from United Russia in 2018 that intended to criminalise compliance with Western sanctions, but which was rejected then due to concerns from the business environment in Russia. The 2018 draft law was broad in scope, and intended to, inter alia, criminalise any refusal to do business with Russian companies subject to Western sanctions, as well as to criminalise any action (or inaction) carried out for the purpose of implementing Western sanctions, if this lead to limitations in, or the refusal of, ordinary business transactions and/or agreements and deals with Russian subjects. The maximum penalty foreseen by this draft law was imprisonment for up to four years.

Proposed withdrawal of Russia from the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

On 21 March 2022, Russian media reported (in Russian) that the generally considered pro-Kremlin party "A Just Russia" has introduced a draft law for Russia to withdraw from the WTO. According to the initiators, Russia needs to immediately withdraw from the WTO to secure its national interests, ensure a protectionist trade policy and to retaliate against sanctions imposed by other countries. The draft law is aimed at denouncing the Protocol on the Accession of the Russian Federation to the WTO Marrakesh Agreement, and to annul the Russian law ratifying the Protocol.

 

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WR Sanctions Alerts provide you with updates on material developments in the country-specific sanctions programmes implemented by the US, the UN, the UK, the EU and Norway. We will not provide updates on mere prolongations, without material changes, of existing sanctions programmes, nor on any listings or de-listings of individuals/entities placed on implemented sanctions lists. Please note that the WR Sanctions Alerts are provided as general information and do not constitute legal advice.

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