The Official Journal of the European Unión of 25 February published nine legal provisions through which the EU articulates its 10th round of sanctions against Russia. The main novelties are the following:
Decision (CFSP) 2023/432 and Regulation (EU) 2023/426 have extended the previously established exemptions from the asset freeze to new sanctioned banks and allow one of them to process payments by the Jewish Claims Conference. They also introduce a temporary exemption allowing the disposal or transfer of securities by an EU-based entity that is controlled by a particular sanctioned entity. They also adopt certain transitional measures.
Of particular relevance are the clarifications they introduce regarding the duty of information and cooperation imposed on any natural or legal person with respect to the property and assets frozen or to be frozen or those that have been the subject of transactions in the two weeks prior to their holders being included on the sanctioned lists. In this way, there is a general obligation, while respecting confidentiality and professional secrecy, for any subject to provide detailed information on such property and assets to the competent national authorities.
Decision (CFSP) 2023/434 and Regulation (EU) 2023/427 have significantly extended trade restrictions against Russia. These include the following. Transit through Russian territory of dual-use goods and technologies and arms exported from the EU is prohibited. Aircraft operators of non-scheduled flights between Russia and the EU, including those operated via a third country, are obliged to notify the competent authorities of all information about such flights prior to their execution.
Russian nationals or natural persons resident in Russia may not hold positions in the governing bodies of owners or operators of critical infrastructures, European Critical Infrastructures and critical entities. The definition of the latter has been included in the new wording of Article 1 of the Regulation.
It is also prohibited to provide storage capacity in underground storage facilities to Russian nationals, natural persons resident in Russia or natural and legal persons established in Russia, as well as legal persons more than 50% owned or acting on their behalf or at their direction.
More than 90 entities are added to the list of companies that support the Russian military industrial complex (Annex IV) and are consequently banned from operating. Two more companies are also added to the list of sanctioned broadcasters (Annex XV).
The list of goods and technologies that can contribute to Russia’s military and technological improvement or to the development of its defence and security sector has also been significantly expanded (Annex VII). Similarly, the list of products related to aviation or the space industry (Annex XI) and the list of products that cannot be imported into the EU insofar as they generate significant revenues for Russia (Annex XXI) are also increased.
Transitional rules are laid down for several of these prohibitions, depending on the specific goods or quantities involved.
Decision (CFSP) 2023/432 and Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/429 add 87 natural persons and 34 entities to the lists of persons whose assets are to be frozen. Among the former are persons engaged in a wide variety of activities and charged with a wide variety of offences (politicians and officials of the annexed territories, members of the State Duma, members of the Federation Security Council, deputy ministers, military personnel, persons responsible for the transfer and adoption of Ukrainian minors, journalists and media executives, businessmen, several persons of Iranian nationality involved in the drone industry and their supply to Russia, etc.).
Legal entities include, inter alia, political organisations, the National Welfare Fund of the Russian Federation, defence companies, reinsurance companies, media and several banks (Alfa-Bank JSC, Rosbank and Tinkoff Bank JSC).
Decision (CFSP) 2023/431 and Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/428 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Mali add the head of the Wagner Group in Mali to the list of natural persons sanctioned.
Decision (CFSP) 2023/433 and Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/430, concerning restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses, sanction 8 natural persons and 7 entities linked to the Wagner Group and its military and commercial activities in Africa.
Assessment of the 10th package of European sanctions against Russia: it can be said that in general we are dealing with rules that expand and clarify previous sanctions, in the sense that their scope covers more natural and legal persons and more goods and technologies. In terms of new restrictive provisions, they are not really very new, except for the prohibitions on access to government positions in companies operating in certain relevant European sectors and storage capacity.
The sanctions package may have fallen short of what the EU authorities and hardline member states wanted. The attitude of some more moderate countries has meant that the sanctions have not affected certain sectors, such as nuclear energy or certain important Russian companies operating in this sector.
However, the practical importance of this tenth package of sanctions against Russia cannot be underestimated. Indeed, as it covers many more individuals and legal entities and also many more goods and technologies, its impact on economic relations with Russia is very significant, and companies should be very attentive to the new developments it entails.
Contribution: José Luis Iriarte, Academic and Senior Legal Counsel.
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