CANADA EXPANDS ITS RUSSIA SANCTIONS

Canada has announced that it is imposing asset freezing measures and travel bans on 20 more Russian and Ukrainian individuals, and new export restrictions on technologies used in Russia’s oil exploration and extractive sector.  The Prime Minister made the following statement yesterday:

“Canada will not accept the illegal occupation of Crimea and persistent, provocative military activity in eastern Ukraine.  As such, we are once again announcing additional economic sanctions and travel bans against Russian and Ukrainian individuals. We are also imposing new restrictions on the export of technology used in Russia’s oil exploration and extractive sector and further defining existing debt and equity financing prohibitions.

The sanctions we have taken to date, in close collaboration with our allies and partners, are putting real economic pressure on Russia to cease militarism in Ukrainian territory.”

The additional names are here.

USA IMPOSES NEW CRIMEA SANCTIONS

obamaOn 19th December 2014, the White House announced that President Obama had signed an Executive Order imposing a new round of sanctions in relation to Crimea.

In summary, the order prohibits U.S. companies or individuals from:

  • exporting or importing any goods, services or technology to or from Crimea,
  • purchasing any real estate or businesses in Crimea,
  • making any new investment in Crimea, or
  • financing or facilitating any transaction by a foreign person in relation to Crimea, that would otherwise be prohibited if performed by a US person.

The Order also freezes any assets in the U.S. of individuals, determined by the U.S. Treasury Department, to be operating in Crimea. Announcing the Executive Order, President Obama stated that it was:

“intended to provide clarity to United States corporations doing business in the region and reaffirm that the United States will not accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.”

The Order builds on existing US measures related to Crimea, previously reported on this blog, that can be searched under the USA category.

EU EXPANDS ITS CRIMEA AND SEVASTOPOL SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

The EU has today imposed additional sanctions on investment, services and trade with Crimea and Sevastopol ‘in view of the continued illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol’. The new measures, on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog, are Council Regulation (EU) No 1351/2014, which amends Council Regulation (EU) No 692/2014, and Council Decision 2014/933/CFSP which amends Council Decision 2014/386/CFSP. Both measures enter into force tomorrow (20 December 2014).

Sanctions restricting trade with Crimea and Sevastopol were first imposed in June 2014 (as previously reported) and further restrictions were introduced in July 2014 on trade and investment in certain economic sectors and infrastructure projects.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a news conference today that the EU may consider lifting its sanctions against Russia if Ukraine’s territorial integrity is preserved. She said the EU “will see whether there is any progress in this direction. Then we can move towards lifting the sanctions.”

Finance

The previous measures prohibited investment, acquisition, or creation of a joint venture in the transport, communications, energy, and oil, gas and mineral exploration sectors. These prohibitions have been broadened to include:

  • Acquiring or extending ownership in any entity in Crimea and Sevastopol
  • Granting loans or credit or otherwise providing financing to any entity in Crimea or Sevastopol
  • Creating any joint venture in Crimea or Sevastopol
  • Acquiring or extending ownership in real estate located in Crimea and Sevastopol
  • Providing investment services related to any of the sectors listed above

These prohibitions are without prejudice to obligations under contracts concluded before 20 December 2014, if prior notification is provided to a competent authority.

Goods

The previous measures prohibited the provision of technical assistance or brokering assistance to investment activities in the transport, communications, energy, and oil, gas and mineral exploration sectors. It was also prohibited to sell, supply, transfer, or export goods and technology in these sectors Crimea and Sevastopol. The new measures further prohibit providing financing or financial assistance to these sectors.

Tourism

A new ban on providing services directly relating to tourism activities in Crimea and Sevastopol has been introduced. In particular, it is prohibited for cruise ships to call at any ports situated in the Crimean peninsula, except in cases of emergency or under contracts concluded before 20 December 2014 (with the prior authorisation of a competent authority).

 

EU COMMISSION GUIDANCE ON RUSSIAN FINANCIAL SANCTIONS

The European Commission has published a Commission Guidance note on the implementation of certain provisions of Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014. The Regulation came into force on 31 July 2014 and imposes a package of “tier 3” sanctions on Russia in view of the situation in Ukraine (see our previous blog post on the measures) which was amended in September and December (see previous blogs here and here).

The note provides guidance to questions that have been asked of the Commission on the provisions relating to financial assistance, financial services, emergency funding, loans and capital markets. It aims to ensure the uniform interpretation of the Regulation by national authorities and other parties.

USA ENACTS NEW VENEZUELA SANCTIONS

On 18 December 2014, US President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that allows the US government to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials who are alleged to have violated protestors’ rights.

The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 targets current and former Venezuelan officials who directed “significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the anti-government protests in Venezuela that began on 4 February”. Between February 2014 and May 2014 more than 40 people were killed in government protests in Venezuela.

The Act authorises the US government to impose asset freezes and visa bans on any person who has:

  • perpetrated or is responsible for otherwise directing significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014;
  • directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or
  • knowingly materially assisted or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for the commission of such acts.

 

USA ADDS TO SYRIA SANCTIONS LIST

On 17 December 2014, the United States added six companies and five people to its Syria SDN and foreign sanctions evaders lists, which means they are now subject to an asset freeze and prohibition on financial and commercial transactions in the USA.

The US Treasury explained in a press statement that the additional listings are aimed to increase “pressure on those supporting the Syrian regime’s procurement of specialty fuels and base oil used in its military campaign against the Syrian people”.

The companies that have been added to the list are Staroil B.V. (Netherlands); Rixo International Trading Ltd and Bluemarine SA (Switzerland); the Abdulkarim Group (Syria); and Maxima Middle East Trading Company (United Arab Emirates). Five officials from the companies have also been added for “for having facilitated deceptive transactions for or on behalf of the Government of Syria”.

 

USA TO EASE ITS SANCTIONS ON CUBA

The United States announced yesterday that it will ease its sanctions on Cuba as part of its wider efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Many aspects of the US economic embargo on Cuba will remain in place. US sanctions will be eased in several areas including expanded permitted imports and exports between the USA and Cuba, increasing categories of travel licences and facilitating money transfers to Cuba and money transactions between the countries. The list of the proposed amendments to the current restrictive measures can be found here.

The US Treasury Department’s statement says that the changes will be effective when its Office of Foreign Asset Control revises the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which is expected to take place in the next few weeks. The White House’s press release states:

“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba… We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.  With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.”

 

EUROPEAN COURT ANNULS LISTING OF HAMAS ON EU TERRORIST SANCTIONS LIST

The General Court of the European Union (2nd chamber) has handed down a judgment today annulling the listing of the terrorist wing of Hamas on the EU’s counter-terrorist sanctions measures – Case T-400/10 Hamas v Council.  The judgment is available here in French.  The Court’s press release on the judgment is in English.

Hamas’ terrorist wing has been subject to the EU’s terrorist asset freezing legislation (which is on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog) since December 2001.  The EU lists terrorist organisations on the basis of a two-tier process, which requires there first to be a decision of a competent national authority classifying that organisation as a terrorist organisation.  In a judgment similar to that annulling the LTTE’s designation in October (see earlier blog), the Court found that the Council had not correctly applied that two-tier process, because it was seeking to rely on out of date assessments and on its own press and internet searches rather than on the facts and evidence that were actually assessed by the national authorities.

The Court’s press release “stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group within the meaning of the Common Position.” The Court maintained the effects of the annulled measures (i.e. maintains the EU asset freeze on Hamas’ terrorist wing) for 3 months or until the Council has appealed to the Court of Justice.