Russia appoints sanctioned person as US ambassador

Russia has appointed Anatoly Antonov, who is subject to EU and Canadian sanctions for his role in supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as its ambassador to the US.  Antonov was Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and became the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister in December last year. When he assumes office on 1 September, he will replace Sergei Kislyak – a key figure in claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Russian court rejects Siemens’ application to seize gas turbines shipped to Crimea

A Russian Court has dismissed an application brought by Siemens for an injunction to seize gas turbines it produced with Russian firm Technopromexport, shipped to Crimea by the Russian firm in alleged contravention of EU sanctions (see previous blog). EU people and entities are prohibited from providing certain technology to Crimea for use in its energy sector.

The turbines are crucial for providing electricity to the Crimea region, which was promised a stable power supply by the Russian government but has endured frequent blackouts. Siemens says that there was a written agreement with its Russian partner not to export the turbines to Crimea. Preliminary hearings in Siemens’ case against Technopromexport are due to begin next month.

EU sanctions those involved in the illegal export of turbines to Crimea

Last month, we reported that Germany-based firm Siemens had brought proceedings against Russian firm Technopromexport for exporting Siemens-built power turbines to Crimea in apparent violation of EU sanctions (see previous blog).  The EU has now sanctioned Technopromexport for exporting the turbines to Crimea, along with 2 other entities and 3 people connected with the export.

See Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1417 implementing Council Regulation (EU) 269/2014 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1418 amending Council Decision 2014/145/CFSP. The EU’s notice is here, and the UK’s notice is here.

President Trump signs new sanctions on Russia, Iran, DPRK into law

President Trump today signed a bill passed by Congress last week, which imposes new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea (see previous blog). The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act restricts the President’s ability to lift sanctions without Congressional approval.  President Trump’s statement on signing the Act makes the following remarks:

“…the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate…  By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.  The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President.  This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.

Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity.  It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States.  We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary… I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars.  That is a big part of the reason I was elected.  As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

In response to the bill passing through Congress, Russia ordered the expulsion of 755 US diplomatic staff from the country.

Russia retaliates as US Congress passes new sanctions bill

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favour of imposing new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea (see previous blog).  That bill has now also passed the US Senate, and will go before President Trump for his signature.

In response, Russia has instructed the US to reduce the number of its diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 at any given time, and has seized holiday properties and a warehouse used by US personnel.  It is reported that there are currently over 1000 staff working at the US embassy in Moscow and its 3 Russian consulates.

EU re-lists Arkady Rotenberg on Russia sanctions

The EU has re-listed Arkady Rotenberg on the EU’s sanctions against people said to be involved in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

In November last year the General Court found that the reasons for Mr Rotenberg’s original listing were unlawful, and that the reasons for his second listing were in part unlawful (see previous blog).  This was because the EU could not show that he was “associated with people responsible for undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine”, and because one of the reasons said to show that he “benefitted from decision-makers who were responsible for the annexation of Crimea” related to contracts won by Mr Rotenberg before President Putin threatened the annexation of Crimea.

The amended reasons are set out in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1374 implementing Regulation (EU) 269/2014 and Decision (CFSP) 2017/1386 amending Decision 2014/145/CFSP. Maya Lester QC acts for Mr Rotenberg.

House of Representatives votes for US sanctions on Russia, Iran, & N Korea

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly (419-3) passed legislation which imposes new sanctions on Russia (for involvement in the 2016 election), Iran, and North Korea, and require the President to obtain approval from Congress before lifting US sanctions.  The US Senate recently passed a similar bill (see previous blog), but the House amended the legislation before passing it and so it must now return to the Senate for approval. The White House has expressed concerns that the Bill will restrict a President’s ability to conduct foreign policy, but has not yet indicated whether President Trump will sign the legislation.

The EU has raised concerns about these new US sanctions (see previous blog), saying that it stands ready to retaliate if the US imposes new sanctions on Russia without first addressing Europe’s concerns. EU Commissioners have been briefed that several EU energy and infrastructure projects, including a multibillion-euro pipeline involving Russia, could be affected by the sanctions in their current form.

EU may retaliate if US puts further sanctions on Russia

The European Commission has cautioned the USA not to expand its sanctions on Russia unilaterally, saying that doing so could have “wide and…unintended consequences” on EU businesses including energy companies.

Over the weekend, Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress reached an agreement on legislation imposing wide-ranging new sanctions on Russia, Iran and N Korea (see previous blog), which will be voted on tomorrow.  A note prepared for the European Commission in advance of a meeting this week says that the EU “should stand ready to act within days” if the new sanctions are adopted without taking account of EU concerns.  Germany is reported to have warned of retaliation if the US sanctions German companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2, a new Baltic pipeline involving Russia.