UK Releases General License Permitting Agricultural Commodities Exports: On November 4, 2022, the UK’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) issued a new general license under its Russia sanctions regime. This license permits exporters of agricultural commodities and UK Department of International Trade License holders: (1) to receive funds and economic resources from any person, including UK-sanctioned persons (“Designated Persons”), to export, sell, produce and transport agricultural commodities to any persons or entities, including Designated Persons; and (2) to make available funds or economic resources to various persons and entities, including Designated Persons, in connection with the export, sale, production and transport of agricultural commodities, or obtaining insurance or reinsurance for such transactions. Individuals engaging in such activities must provide written notice to HM Treasury within seven days of commencing such activities. The license does not authorize Designated Persons to transfer funds or economic resources to other Designated Persons.
U.S. Issues New Licenses and Guidance: On November 10, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published General License (“GL”) 8D, which supersedes GL 8C. GL 8D authorizes certain transactions related to energy otherwise prohibited by Executive Order (“EO”) 14024, from November 10, 2022, to May 15, 2023. The scope of the license remains the same as 8C, and authorizes energy transactions with: (1) State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (aka “VEB”); (2) Public Joint Stock Company Bank Financial Corporation Otkritie; (3) Sovcombank Open Joint Stock Company; (4) Public Joint Stock Company Sberbank of Russia; (5) VTB Bank Public Joint Stock Company; (6) Joint Stock Company Alfa-Bank; (7) any entity in which one or more of the previously-listed entities own, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, a 50 percent or greater interest; or (8) the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.
Also on November 10, 2022, OFAC published GL 53 and Frequently Asked Question (“FAQ”) 1096. GL 53 authorizes U.S. persons to engage in any transaction “ordinarily incident and necessary” to the official business of diplomatic or consular missions of the Government of the Russian Federation, including transactions relating to compensating employees of Russian missions, such as payment of salaries and expenses, to the extent such transactions are prohibited by Directive 4 under EO 10424. FAQ 1096 explains that GL 53 applies to Russian missions located in or outside of the U.S., and further states that “[n]on-U.S. persons may engage in transactions that are authorized for U.S. persons under [GL 53] without risk of sanctions under E.O. 14024.”
EU Guidance: On November 9, 2022, the European Commission added one new FAQ to their guidance on asset freezing under the EU Russian sanctions regime. The new FAQ offers guidance on how EU authorities approach shares of an EU bank owned by EU-listed persons. The guidance provides that such shares qualify as “funds” under EU sanctions, and “therefore must be frozen” if they belong to or are controlled by an EU-listed person. Additionally, the Commission explains that voting rights are an intangible economic resource and must also be frozen.
U.S. Revokes Russia’s Market Economy Status: On November 10, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) revoked Russia’s status as a market economy in its antidumping proceedings, which status Russia has held since 2002. This means Russia now joins the U.S. non-market economy list, denoting countries where prices are set by authorities rather than market forces. The Commerce Department stated that, “This decision gives the United States the ability to apply the full force of the U.S. [anti-dumping] law to address the market distortions caused by increasing interference from the Russian government in their economy.”
IRS-CI Releases Annual Report Illustrating Focus on Russian Sanction-Evaders: On November 3, 2022, the IRS Criminal Investigation division (“IRS-CI”) released its 2022 annual report, which states that IRS-CI joined Taskforce Kleptocapture, a multi-agency taskforce focused on Russian oligarchs and other sanctions evaders. The report notes that, as of September 2022, the agency had identified nearly 50 individuals and entities as potential targets for sanctions-related enforcement, and that IRS-CI is working with OFAC and other agencies to identify individuals and entities to add to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.