1 Introduction

The European Union has introduced a fifth package of sanctions in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and in particular, emerging news of war crimes. The latest sanctions continue to target Russia’s economy, businesspeople, and oligarchs.

The EU originally introduced such sanctions in 2014 in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. These have been expanded significantly since late February when Russia recognised the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics. To date, more than 40 countries have implemented sanctions similar to the EU’s.

This note sets out an overview of some of the main EU sanctions applicable as of 13 May 2022 the position in Ireland, and a summary of sanctions in the UK and US. As the crisis escalates, sanctions continue to be extended, so the most up-to-date position should be reviewed.

2 EU sanctions

2.1 Restrictions on Import and Export of Coal, Oil and other goods

Council Regulation (EU) 2022/576 introduced an EU ban on the import of coal, wood, chemicals, and other products from Russia, including rubber, cement, fertilisers, and high-end products such as caviar and vodka. The ban on coal imports will be fully effective from the second week of August 2022, by which time existing contracts must be terminated.

The export to Russia of certain products has also been restricted, including advanced semiconductors, software, and jet fuel.

This supplements a previous restriction on the import of any iron and steel products originating in or exported from Russia.

Restrictions are placed on the purchasing, transporting, and providing of technical or financial assistance in connection with the sanctioned goods.

The EU Member States are currently in discussion with a view to imposing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in the coming weeks. It has been discussed that part of the new sanctions would include a ban on the import of oil from Russia and a phase-out of the EU’s reliance on Russian oil.

2.2 Asset Freeze on Named Persons and Entities

Annex I of Council Regulation (EU) 269/2014 sets out a list of persons and entities subject to an asset freeze in connection with actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Ukraine. This includes various oligarchs and high-ranking Kremlin officials, as well as their family members. The funds and economic resources of anyone listed must be frozen and their ability to access any such funds or economic resources must be restricted. The list of sanctioned persons and entities has expanded significantly since the invasion of Ukraine.

The criteria for this list include:

  • Natural or legal persons, entities, or bodies supporting, materially or financially, or benefitting from Russian decision-makers and the Government of the Russian Federation who are responsible for the destabilisation of Ukraine; and
  • Legal businesspersons or legal persons, entities, or bodies providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation responsible for the destabilisation of Ukraine.

Among those listed are Vladimir Putin, his two adult daughters, his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and entities such as Promsvyazbank and Bank Rossiya.

The total amount of listed persons and entities currently extends to 1093 persons, and 80 entities as of 13 May 2022.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/restrictive-measures-ukraine-crisis/

The sanctions imposed upon these individuals have been extended until 15 September 2022.

2.3 Banking

On 8 April 2022, the EU announced a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks pursuant to Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/581, including Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB. Together these banks represent 23% of the Russian banking sector.

Under Council Regulation (EU) 2022/345 (which updates Council Regulation (EU) 883/2014) the sale, supply, transfer, or export of euro-denominated banknotes to Russia or to any natural or legal person, entity, or body in Russia, including the government and the Central Bank of Russia, or for use in Russia is prohibited. It is also prohibited to provide specialised financial messaging services used to exchange financial data, to the legal persons, entities, or bodies or to any legal person, entity, or body established in Russia directly or indirectly owned as to more than 50% by an entity listed in new Annex XIV of Regulation (EU) 883/2014.

2.4 Restrictions on Trade; Aviation and Maritime Industries

Council Regulation (EU) 2022/334 has banned any Russian operated air-carriers to overfly the territory of the EU. This restriction does not apply to any cases of emergency landings or overflights, or where the same is authorised by a competent authority.

On 8 April 2022, the EU adopted Council Regulation (EU) 2022/576, which introduced a ban on Russian vessels and Russian-operating vessels from accessing EU ports. Certain exemptions will cover essentials, such as food and agricultural products, human aid, and energy. A ban on Russian and Belarusian Road transport operators was also introduced.

Other regulations introduce a prohibition on the supply of technology to the aviation industry in Russia or for use in Russia. This includes the provision of any means of technical or financial assistance for the technology in aviation. Similarly, the sale, supply, or export of maritime navigation goods and technology to any person or entity in Russia, for use in Russia, or for placing on board of a Russian-flagged vessel is prohibited. This is inclusive of providing any means of technical or financial assistance for such goods and technology.

2.5 Dual Use of Goods and Technology Restrictions

A dual-use good is an item, including software and technology, which can be used for both civil and military purposes.

The sanctions previously in place prohibited the ‘sale, supply, transfer or export of dual-use goods and technology to any person, entity or body in Russia or for use in Russia, if those items are for military use or military end-users.’ The legislation has been updated by removing the term ‘for military use or military end-users,’ consequently creating an outright ban on the supply of dual-use goods to any individual or entity in Russia or for use in Russia (Council Regulation (EU) 2022/328, updating Council Regulation (EU) 883/2014). Dual-Use goods and technology are listed in Annex 1 of Council Regulation No 2021/821.

Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/327 further prohibits the sale, supply, transfer, or export, directly or indirectly, of goods and technology which might contribute to Russia’s military and technological enhancement, or the development of Russia’s defence and security sector, whether or not such goods and technology originate in the EU, to any person, entity or body in Russia, or for use in Russia.

This restriction is subject to exceptions, such as humanitarian purposes or health emergencies.

2.6 Other Financial Restrictions

It is prohibited to purchase, sell, provide investment services for or assist in the issuance or dealings with transferable securities and money-market instruments issued by Russia and its Government, the Central Bank of Russia, and any legal person, entity, or body acting on behalf of them, whether directly or indirectly (Council Regulation (EU) 2022/262 amending Council Regulation (EU) 833/2014).

It is prohibited to assist in the issuance of transferable securities and money-market instruments by major credit institutions, or institutions with over 50% public ownership. This includes credit institutions that support the activities of Russia, the Russian government, or the Central Bank of Russia. Crypto-assets are now included within the meaning of “transferable securities” as per Council Regulation (EU) 2022/394 amending Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014.

Accepting deposits from persons living in Russia, or any individual classified as a Russian National is now prohibited where the total sum of the deposit exceeds €100,000. There are certain exceptions provided for EU nationals, and for non-prohibited cross-border trade in goods and services between the EU and Russia. The selling of euro-dominated securities to Russian nationals or persons living in Russia is likewise prohibited.

Importantly, a ban on any involvement in transactions with the Central Bank of Russia was introduced by Council Regulation (EU) 2022/334, which updates Council Regulation (EU) 883/2014.

Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/327 amending Decision 2014/512/CFSP brings in prohibitions on certain capital markets transactions. It prohibits the purchase, sale, or provision of investment services for or assistance in the issuance of, or any other dealing with any transferable securities and money market instruments issued after 12 April 2022 by major credit institutions and other Russian entities in majority public ownership, and other entities listed in the Annexes to the Decision. It is prohibited to list and provide services on trading venues registered or recognised in the EU for the transferable securities of any legal person, entity, or body established in Russia and with over 50% public ownership.

Council Regulation (EU) 2022/428 amending Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 has prohibited, as of 15 April 2022, the involvement in any arrangement to grant any credit rating service, to any Russian individual or entity incorporated under Russian law.

2.7 Visa Restrictions

Pursuant to Council Decision (EU) 2022/333, the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia is suspended as regards to any Russian officials, diplomats, businesspeople, or representatives of business organisations.

2.8 Broadcasting

Restrictions on broadcasting are set out in Council Regulation (EU) 2022/350. This Regulation restricts operators from broadcasting or enabling or facilitating or otherwise contributing to broadcast (whether by cable, satellite, internet, or otherwise), any content by certain entities listed in an annex to the Council Regulation (EU) 2022/350. These are RT-Russia Today English, RT-Russia Today UK, RT-Russia Today Germany, RT-Russia Today France, RT-Russia Today Spanish, and Sputnik.

2.9 Luxury Goods Restrictions

Sanctions restrict the sale, supply, or export of luxury goods to any Russian individual or entity, or which may be for use in Russia. The luxury goods to which this restriction applies are listed in Annex XVIII of Council Regulation (EU) 2022/428 (amending Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014), though the prohibition only applies where the value of the item exceeds €300.

2.10 Sanctions imposed upon Belarus

In response to Belarus’ involvement in the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, the EU introduced measures targeted at individuals and economic entities in Belarus (Council Regulation (EU) 2022/398 updating Regulation (EC) No 765/2006). These include: (i) sanctions on 22 people; (ii) banning three large Belarusian banks from the SWIFT system; and (ii) prohibiting transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus.

As of 12 April 2022, the listing of services in relation to shares of Belarus state-owned entities on EU trading venues is subject to a ban. Public financing or the providing of financial assistance for trade with Belarus is now also prohibited. Additionally, the acceptance of any deposit exceeding €100,000 from a Belarusian individual or entity, or an individual residing in Belarus is banned under this Regulation.

3 Irish position

Across the board, Irish industry has strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent emerging atrocities. Many Irish companies and firms have announced a cessation of business with Russia or Russian-related entities, including those with long-term links to the country. The Irish government has condemned the invasion and taken measures such as suspending the operation of the Irish immigrant investor programme (IIP) to Russian citizens.

How can entities operating in Ireland be compliant with sanctions?

If a transaction occurs in which there is a breach or suspected breach of sanctions, the transaction must be halted and the assets of the sanctioned entity or person must be frozen. This is described as a “hit” by the Central Bank of Ireland (the “CBI”) and notification regarding the breach must be made to the CBI. The CBI is the only competent authority in Ireland with respect to financial sanctions. It has the power to authorise a transfer to a sanctioned person or entity in limited circumstances. To request authorisation for a transfer of this nature, an email can be sent to [email protected]. A Sanction Return Form is also available on www.centralbank.ie.

For requests relating to sanctions such as the supply of dual-use goods and technology or any other trade-related sanctions, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is the competent Irish authority.

Penalties

The various EU sanctions regulations referenced above (the EU Regulations) have direct effect in all EU Member States. It is important to note there are anti-avoidance provisions within the Regulations. Article 9 of Council Regulation (EU) 269/2014) prohibits the “participation, knowingly and intentionally, in activities the object or effect of which is to circumvent the measures” such as the freezing of assets and restrictions on transfers of assets as set out in Article 2 of that Regulation. Furthermore, S.I. No. 461/2014 (enacted pursuant to the Financial Transfer Act 1992 (the “1992 Act”)) provides that “a person shall not make a financial transfer between Ireland and another country the effect of which would be to enable or facilitate, directly or indirectly”, an act that is a contravention of the EU Regulations.

Notably, individuals may be found liable for a breach by a corporate entity of the EU Regulations

Those in breach of the EU Regulations are liable to criminal penalties, which include significant fines and custodial sentences of up to 10 years.

4 International Position: Sanctions on Russia

Other countries including the US, UK and Canada have introduced or increased sanctions on Russia in connection with the invasion of Ukraine. A snapshot of US and UK sanctions is set out below.

4.1 US

Similar restrictions to those contained in the EU Regulations have been in effect in the US since 2014, commencing with the Executive Order (EO) 13660. Several EOs were issued in the subsequent years as a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 US Presidential election. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the US sanctions already in place included visa restrictions, asset freezes, sanctions imposed on banks, and sanctions affecting the export of various oil and gas technologies to Russia.

The sanctions implemented on 24 February 2022 began with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control adding the Russian President and other important individuals to the “Specially Designated Nations” (SDN) List. This list has significantly expanded since the beginning of the acts of aggression against the Ukraine. Further to the G7 announcement in March 2022, the US introduced sanctions against several Russian defence companies, more than 300 members of the Russian Duma, and other Russian individuals.

On 26 February 2022 the US, along with the EU, UK, and others, jointly agreed to remove selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system in order to prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying reserves to undermine sanctions. As a consequence, all transactions with the Russian Central Bank became prohibited.

Other specific prohibitions have been introduced such as a prohibition on the importation of Russian oil, gas, and coal, and a ban on US investment in the Russian energy sector.

A breach of US sanctions can result in a civil or criminal charge, with potential penalties including custodial sentences and very significant fines.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control has released guidance on specific policies relating to these sanctions which can be found on the website of the US Department of the Treasury.

4.2 United Kingdom

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 was enacted in the UK for the purpose of creating a national sanctions framework. Following this, the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 were enacted in late 2020 to allow for the continuous operation of sanctions already imposed on Russia from when the UK was a member of the EU. Sanctions imposed under Council Regulation EU No. 269/2014, 692/2014 and 833/2014 as they currently operate under EU law remain adopted by the UK under this legislation. A consolidated list (the UK Sanctions List) of persons and individuals subject to UK sanctions regulations is available on the UK government website (see link).The restrictions imposed by the UK involve a targeted asset freeze and restrictions on transfer of assets of individuals and entities on the UK Sanctions List. The individuals listed have also been placed under a strict travel ban which prohibits them from either leaving or entering the United Kingdom.

Further, an investment ban, as well as restrictions regarding credit arrangements and asset management are also in place on individuals and entities listed in the UK Sanctions List.

On 9 March 2022, the UK announced that the importation of Russian oil will be phased out throughout the rest of 2022.

5 Further Information

The list of sanctioned persons and entities, and the scope of EU sanctions, continue to increase as the crisis escalates. The EU (and in Ireland, the CBI) publish regular updates on any changes to applicable sanctions. The EU’s consolidated list of sanctioned persons and entities is available on www.eeas.europa.eu.

In Ireland, the Law Society of Ireland has published a Sanctions Hub providing information and further guidance to the legal profession in relation to compliance with current applicable sanctions: https://www.lawsociety.ie/Solicitors/Practising/sanctions.

This article was written with the assistance of Manuel Florendo.