On 29 December 2016 the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine imposed additional sanctions on Russia (the “aggressor-state”) and extending existing measures for a year, sanctioning (see press release):
- People “illegally elected to the State Duma after the so-called ‘elections’, held by the occupation authorities in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.
- Members of the “so-called ‘election commissions’ in Crimea”.
- Ukrainian companies that were “illegally re-registered according to the Russian legislation”.
- Russian officials in law enforcement agencies and courts involved in the “illegal detention of Ukrainian citizens in Russia”.
- The former leaders of Ukraine, who were “put on the international wanted lists and who are hiding abroad and still has been involved in the financing of terrorist activities and hybrid aggression of Russia against Ukraine”.
- Legal entities controlled by Russia, “involved in the hybrid war against Ukraine in the sphere of information and cyberspace… Cyber-attacks against information systems of government agencies and critical infrastructure of Ukraine, coordinated by RF, conditioned the need of urgent measures taking to strengthen the quality of cyber-defend and cyber-security systems. In particular, it is all about the improvement of legislation, standardization ensuring, the unification of software and hardware solutions for the needs of the state, the development of defended National telecommunications network, the protection of state information resources and strengthen the security and defense authorities capacities in cyberspace.”
The Council also (a) commissioned the Cabinet of Ministers and Security Service to take urgent measures to improve its cyber security systems; (b) approved the draft of “Doctrine of information security of Ukraine” on freedom of speech and information policy to provide “effective measures implementation to counter Russian propaganda and bases on strict observance of values of free speech, journalists’ rights and Ukrainian media development”; and (c) supported the developed by Defense Ministry of Ukraine programme of Armed Forces development.
As foreshadowed earlier today (here), the USA has imposed new sanctions on Russia “in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election”. The White House statement says:
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior. All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences.”
The new measures (links here) include:
- An executive order (link here) amending the 2015 order (on which see previous blog) that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine the US election processes and institutions, or those of the USA’s allies or partners.
- Designations using this amended executive order, of 9 entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB (Russian intelligence services), 4 officers of the GRU, and 3 companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
- Designations of 2 Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.
- The shutting down of 2 Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.
- Declarations as “persona non grata” of 35 Russian intelligence operatives.
- Publication by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of a Joint Analysis Report which releases declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity, to help network defenders in the US and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s “global campaign of malicious cyber activities”.
The White House statement makes clear that “these actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.”
Reports suggest the the Obama administration may impose new sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 Presidential election by cyber attacks (which Russia denies). The President issues an executive Order in April 2015 (which has not yet been used) authorising the US Treasury to impose sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for malicious cyber-activities that form or are likely to form a serious threat to the security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States (see previous blog). The Russian foreign ministry has said that Russia will respond if the US imposes these new measures.
Iran’s Foreign Minister has written to the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini calling for a meeting of the E3/EU+3, the group of countries that negotiated the JCPOA nuclear deal, to discuss the recent decision by the US Congress to renew some US sanctions against Iran (see previous blog). Iran has said that the extension is a violation of the JCPOA.
Kenneth Zong (a US citizen) has been charged in the USA with money laundering and conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran. Mr Zong, along with 4 unindicted co-conspirators, is said to have used false and fraudulent transactions to remove around $1billion of Iranian owned funds held in Korean bank accounts and convert them into more easily traded currencies. He is said to have transferred those currencies to other countries and received between $10-17million from Iranian nationals as payment for his services. They are accused of creating false contracts, bills of lading, and invoices suggesting that Mr Zong’s Korean company “Anchore” was owed money by an Iranian shell company, resulting in the transfer of funds from a sanctioned Iranian bank account to Zong’s Anchore account. The Department of Justice’s press release is here.
Mr Al-Ghabra was designated by the UN on its counter-terrorist asset freezing measures in 2006 at the UK’s request. He applied to the General Court of the EU to annul his listing and subsequent re-listings in 2013. The Court has just rejected that application in Case T-248/13 Al-Ghabra v Commission (13 December 2016). The Court found that his application was out of time in so far as it related to his original designation, that the Commission could not be criticised for failure to follow the procedure and legal standards set out in Kadi II (see previous blog) for reviewing UN designations, and that although that review had taken an unreasonable length of time, it had not prejudiced the applicant’s rights of defence. The Court also rejected the applicant’s suggestions that the Commission had not satisfied that the UN had relied on evidence obtained by torture or had failed to gather exculpatory material, and that there was insufficient evidence to justify the EU implementation of Mr Al-Ghabra’s designation.
Guidance: OFAC has amended its FAQ on the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran as to what would happen if there were a “snapback” and sanctions were reintroduced (link here). The updated answers, M.4 and M.5 say:
- The US will not retroactively impose sanctions for legitimate activity undertaken after Implementation Day, but the JCPOA does not grandfather contracts signed prior to snapback.
- The US government anticipates working with US or third-country companies to minimise the impact of sanctions on legitimate activities taken prior to a snapback, and that as a general matter it would give non-US, non-Iranian persons 180 days to wind down operations entered into pursuant to the JCPOA.
General Licence J: OFAC has also amended General Licence J, which authorises the re-exportation of certain civil aircraft to Iran, to allow the temporary re-export of eligible aircraft that involve code sharing arrangements. The amended licence is here.