Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law the suspension of Russia’s free-trade agreement with Ukraine as of 1 January 2016. In response, the Ukrainian government has passed counter-sanctions that will restrict trade with Russia if the suspension enters force. In early December, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk announced that his government would submit a bill to parliament authorising it to impose mirrored sanctions against any country that imposes sanctions on it. At the same time, Russian Trade and Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukyev stated that “It’s a very probable scenario” that there would be no agreement on the Ukraine situation before 1 January and so a non-preferential trade regime would be introduced, noting the “extraordinary efforts” required to reach agreement (see previous blog).
The Ukrainian Prime Minister has said that his government is prepared to scrap the new trade sanctions against Russia, provided Moscow agrees to lift the food embargo currently in force against Ukraine and maintain the free-trade agreement.
The EU has added two new individuals to its Central African Republic sanctions regime, implementing changes made by the UN Sanctions Committee on 17 December to its own sanctions on the country.
Haroun Gaye and Eugène Barret Ngaïkosset were listed by the UN for allegedly engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability, or security of the CAR, being involved in human rights abuses in the country, and being complicit in planning and conducting attacks against UN missions and international security presences. Amongst others things, Gaye is said to be the leader of an armed group operating in the PK5 neighbourhood of capital city Bangui and to have been involved in a seven-hour gun battle with international security forces, killing one peacekeeper in the process and injuring several others. Barret Ngaïkosset is said to be one of the main perpetrators of the violence which erupted in Bangui in late September 2015 and to have asked militia under his command to carry out kidnappings, with a particular focus on French nationals.
In accordance with a change made by the UN, the EU has also updated the identifying information for Oumar Younous Abdoulay to include his date of birth. The updates are made by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2454 implementing Council Regulation (EU) 224/2014 and Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2015/2459 implementing Council Decision 2013/798/CFSP.
We reported here a month ago that Russia had imposed sanctions on Turkey, in the form of a decree “on measures to ensure Russia’s national security and protect nationals of the Russian Federation from criminal and other illegal actions and to use special economic measures against the Turkish Republic.” By that decree, Russia banned or restricted imports of certain Turkish goods, including fruit and vegetables, suspended its visa-free travel agreement with Turkey and banned charter flights between Russia and Turkey.
President Putin today signed an order extending those sanctions, by bringing into force some of the sanctions imposed on November 28 that had not yet been implemented. The new order also bans a number of Turkish organisations or limits their activities in Russia.
The US Treasury has updated its Frequently Asked Questions relating to Cuba to cover the provision of insurance (questions 57-61). The new guidance affirms that persons subject to US jurisdiction are allowed to provide travel insurance to other persons subject to US jurisdiction, provided their travel to Cuba is authorised, and that persons subject to US jurisdiction may also travel to Cuba to obtain travel insurance from a third-country vendor where authorised to do so.
The guidance also states that US insurers are allowed to issue policies and pay claims relating to group health, life, and travel insurance on behalf of third-country nationals travelling to or within Cuba, provided the policy is global and not specific to travel relating to Cuba. However, outside of certain global health, life, or travel insurance policies, US insurers may not issue policies or pay claims related to non-US persons providing goods or services that facilitate travel by third-country nationals from a third country to Cuba without specific authorisation from OFAC.
Last week, the EU de-listed Samir Hamsho and his companies Al Buroj Trading and Syria Steel/Hmisho Steel from its sanctions measures on Syria. Samir Hamsho was listed for being a prominent Syrian businessman benefitting from and supporting the Syrian regime, for having been appointed to the Homs Chamber of Commerce by the Minister of Industry in 2014, and for owning the designated companies named above.
The changes to the EU’s Syria listings are made by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2350 implementing Council Regulation (EU) 36/2012 and Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2015/2359 implementing Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP.
The US has sanctioned 34 new people and entities under its Ukraine-related Russia sanctions regimes. Of the 34, 14 are said to be linked to those that have engaged in serious and sustained evasion of sanctions or are owned by a designated entity, 6 are alleged separatists who have threatened the security or stability of Ukraine, 2 are former Ukrainian government officials said to have been complicit in the misappropriation of public assets or to have threatened the security of stability of Ukraine, and 12 are entities that operate in the contested Crimea region of Ukraine. The US also identified a number of subsidiaries that are owned by listed entities VTB Bank, Sberbank, and Rostec.
In the US Treasury’s press release, Acting Director of OFAC John Smith stated that “It is critical that Russia takes the steps necessary to comply with its obligations under the Minsk Agreements and to ensure a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine”, adding that the US is “closely matching its designations with those of our international partners”. The press release notes the US’ “sustained commitment to a policy of non-recognition with respect to Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea, and our intent to maintain Crimea-related sanctions until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula”. This reflects the position taken by the EU; several of the people and entities newly designated by the US have previously been listed by the EU. The EU renewed its own sectoral sanctions on Russia on Tuesday (see previous blog).
The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the EU to impose asset freezes and travel bans on members of the Maldivian government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community. The resolution expresses “deep concern about the gradual deterioration of the democratic standards and increasingly authoritarian tendencies in the Maldives”, and calls for “the Maldives government to release, immediately and unconditionally, former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb, and former defence ministers Tholhath Ibrahim and Mohamed Nazim, together with Sheikh Imran Abdulla and other political prisoners”.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the release of former President Nasheed in April, and in October the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Nasheed’s detention was unlawful and called for his immediate release. The Maldivian parliament has passed legislation making it a treasonable offence to call for the imposition of sanctions and associated penalties against the Government of the Maldives and its members.
As indicated last Friday (see previous blog), the EU has extended its sectoral sanctions against Russia until 31 July 2016 to allow for further assessment of the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which the EU has said must be completed before sanctions are lifted.
The sanctions prohibit, inter alia, EU financial transactions with major Russian state banks, restrict access to EU capital markets for some Russian entities, bans the export to Russia of certain energy-exploration equipment, and prevent the sale of arms and some dual-use civilian goods to the country. They were due to expire at the end of January 2016, and an informal agreement to extend them by 6-months was reached at the G20 summit in Turkey last month (see previous blog).
The extension is made by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/2431 amending Council Decision 2014/512/CFSP. All the EU’s sanctions on Russia are on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog.