Ukraine has prohibited Russia’s Eurovision contestant from entering the country, preventing her from taking part in the competition that is due to be hosted in Kiev in May this year. The singer, Julia Samoilova, said that she performed in Crimea in 2015; Ukraine has accused her of entering Crimea illegally, having entered the country from Russia and not through Ukraine. Leading Russian politicians have called for the contest to be boycotted.
Ukraine is reported to have proposed sanctions on 5 Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian banks in which the Russian state has an interest (Sberbank, VTB, Prominvestbank, VS Bank). According to an official from Ukraine’s central bank, the sanctions prevent the subsidiaries from removing capital from Ukraine.
The EU has decided to renew its asset freezing measures and travel bans on people and entities said to be involved in undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity (and related criteria) for a further 6 months, until 15 September 2017. The EU has also removed 2 deceased people from its listings bringing the total to 150 people and 37 entities listed on these measures.
The EU Council has published its conclusions on EU relations with Switzerland, in which it notes Switzerland’s voluntary alignment to EU sanctions on a case-by-case basis. It encourages Switzerland to remain consistent in the application of sanctions, including in preventing their circumvention, and invites Switzerland to align itself further with EU sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.
The EU’s press release is here.
EU foreign ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to continuing sanctions against Russia until it complies with its obligations under the Minsk peace agreements. The G7 nations also took this position when they met in May last year (see previous blog).
Speaking today, the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini said that although she “cannot say where the US administration stands on this…I can say where the Europeans stand on this”. Setting out the UK’s position, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that “The UK will be insisting that there is no case for the relaxation of the sanctions, every case for keeping up the pressure on Russia”.
OFAC has issued a general licence authorising US companies to request and pay for licences from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) for the export of certain IT products to Russia. A link to the new licence is here.
The FSB is responsible for authorising the import of electronic goods with encryption functions into Russia. A prohibition on transacting with the FSB, imposed in response to Russia’s alleged involvement in hacking related to the US election, was therefore having the unintended consequence of preventing US companies from exporting certain IT products to Russia. The exports themselves must still be licenced by the Bureau of Industry and Security, and payments to the FSB for licences must not exceed $5,000 per annum.
President Trump is due to speak to President Putin today, in their first call since Trump took office. It is being reported that lifting US sanctions may be on the agenda. When asked whether the leaders would discuss lifting US sanctions on Russia, senior aide to Trump Kellyanne Conway said that “All of this is under consideration”. There have also been reports that a member of Mr Trump’s team has drafted an executive order to lift sanctions on Russia.