Sanctions and counter-sanctions due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine

The last few months have been marked by a number of sanctions against Russia in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, as well as counter-measures from Russia. The situation changes frequently but the sanctions that have so far been issued by the EU and the US are intended to restrict access to Russia, its central bank and other financial institutions for financing, as well as to freeze assets and also to make travel difficult for Russian politicians and other high-ranking actors in Russia. Several measures have also been directed towards specific sectors or types of goods, which has affected inter alia the construction sector. Russia has responded with restrictions regarding e.g. profit payments and transfers of bank funds to citizens and entities in "unfriendly states".

This article was first published on February 25, 2022.
It has since been updated. Last update: June 6, 2022.

Below is a brief exposition of the sanctions that may most closely affect Swedish companies. For a complete and fully updated compilation, contact one of our experts below.

EU sanctions (per June 1, 2022)

Since Russia's invasion of Crimea and Sevastopol on 25 February 2014, Russia, the federal bank of Russia, Russian financial institutions, including five banks, and Russian individuals have been subject to sanctions.

On 21 February 2022, the EU decided to extend these sanctions in relation to five members of the Russian Duma. The sanctions against Russia have since been extended on 23 February by a decision of the Council. The new sanctions include:

  • Sanctions against 27 high-ranking actors who are considered to have played a significant role in the conflict.
  • Sanction against all 351 of the Russian parliament who voted to name Donetsk and Luhansk as separate states.
  • Trade restrictions on the Donetisk and Luhansk regions, such as bans on imports and exports of goods in the regions, restrictions on trade and tourism.
  • Restrictions on the availability of EU capital and financial services aimed at Russia and the federal bank of Russia.

At the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Europe on 24 February 2022, it was decided to include President Putin and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov, and members of the Security Council on the list of persons with frozen assets and travel bans and to impose additional sanctions.

The sanctions were published late on 25 February and include inter alia:

  • extended prohibitions in relation to goods with a dual purpose, including the prohibition of providing services or financial arrangements in connection with such technology;
  • a ban against accepting deposits exceeding EUR 100 000 from Russian natural or legal persons;
  • bans on the provision of bonds, loans and credit arrangements to Russian banks and other financial institutions;
  • bans on the sale of euro denominated transferable securities to any Russian; and
  • additional restrictive measures in relation to inter alia, the defence, oil and space industries.

On 9 March 2022, the EU decided to once again extent the targeted sanctions involving travel bans, asset freeze and forbidding companies in the EU and EU citizens from making funds available to an additional 160 individuals, consisting of:

  • 14 oligarchs and prominent businesspeople involved in key economic sections, for example agriculture, pharmaceutical and telecom, which provides a substantial source of revenue of the Russian Federation, and their family members; and
  • 146 members of the Russian Federation Council, who ratified the government decision of the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Donetsk People’s Republic’ and the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Luhansk People’s Republic’.

In addition, the EU decided on 9 March 2022 on further restrictive measures regarding export of maritime navigation goods and technology to Russia. The further sanctions entail:

  • Prohibition to sell, supply, transfer or export (directly or indirectly) certain listed goods and technology for maritime navigation to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia, for use in Russia or for placing on board of a Russian-flagged vessel;
  • Prohibition to, directly or indirectly, provide technical assistance, brokering services or other services related to goods and technology for maritime navigation; and
  • Prohibition to, directly or indirectly, provide financing or financial assistance related to the listed goods and technology for maritime navigation.

In addition to this, the EU further decided on sanctions against the Belarusian financial sector:

  • Exclusion of Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt och the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus, as well as their Belarusian subsidiaries, from the SWIFT messaging system;
  • Prohibition on transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus regarding the management of reserves or assets, and the provision of public financing for investment in and trade with Belarus;
  • As of 12 April 2022, prohibition the listing and provision of services in relation to shares of Belarus state-owned entities on EU trading venues;
  • Prohibition the acceptance of deposits exceeding EUR 100 000 from Belarusian citizens and residents, the holding of accounts of Belarusian clients by the EU central securities depositories, and the selling of euro-denominated securities to Belarusian clients; and
  • Prohibition on the provision of euro denominated banknotes to Belarus.

On 15 March 2022, the EU decided on further sanctions against Russia. Sanctions are aimed at Russia's energy and steel industries, among other things. The list of persons and entities covered by the sanctions has also been expanded. The increased sanctions are as follows:

  • A full prohibition of any transactions with certain Russian State-owned enterprises across different sectors - the Kremlin's military-industrial complex.
  • An EU import ban on those steel products currently under EU safeguard measures, amounting to approximately € 3.3 billion in lost export revenue for Russia. Increased import quotas will be distributed to other third countries to compensate.
  • A far-reaching ban on new investment across the Russian energy sector, with limited exceptions for civil nuclear energy and the transport of certain energy products back to the EU.
  • An EU export ban on luxury goods (e.g. luxury cars, jewellery, etc.) to directly hit Russian elites.
  • The list of sanctioned persons and entities has been further extended to include more oligarchs and business elites linked to the Kremlin, as well as companies active in military and defense areas, which are logistically and materially supporting the invasion. There are also new listings of actors active in disinformation.
  • A ban on the rating of Russia and Russian companies by EU credit rating agencies and the provision of rating services to Russian clients, which would result in them losing even further access to the EU's financial markets.

The banks that have so far been excluded from the SWIFT payment system are Russia's largest state- and privately owned banks. The banks that have been excluded are as follows:

  • Bank Otkritie
  • Novikombank
  • Promsvyazbank
  • Bank Rossiya
  • Sovcombank
  • VNESHECONOMBANK (VEB)
  • VTB BANK

On 8 April 2022, the EU decided on a fifth sanctions package. The new sanctions consist of several new measures to weaken the Russian government and the Russian economy. The new sanctions include:

  • A ban on buying, importing or transferring Russian coal and other solid fossil fuels.
  • A ban on providing access to EU ports for Russian-registered vessels. Exceptions are granted for agricultural products, food products, humanitarian aid and energy.
  • A ban on any Russian and Belarusian road transportundertaking preventing them from transporting goods by road within the EU, including in transit.
  • Additional export bans, especially aimed at aviation fuel and advanced electronic products.
  • Additional import bans and import quotas on products such as: wood, cement, glass, fertilizers, seafood and liqour.
  • Several economic measures in order to strengthen the already existing sanctions and counteract the loopholes that exist. This includes, among other things, a general ban on Russian companies participating in public procurement, the exclusion of all financial assistance to Russian public bodies, an extended ban on deposits in cryptocurrencies and an extended ban on the sale of banknotes and transferable securities.

In addition, the Council decided to sanction companies whose products or technology had been involved in the invasion of Ukraine. These also include people such as oligarchs, businesspeople, politicians, and other people who have systematically spread misinformation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A transaction ban by four Russian banks, which account for 23 percent of Russia's banking sector, will continue. After being de-SWIFTed these banks will now be subject to an asset freeze, thereby being completely cut off from EU markets. The banks that are included are:

  • Otkritie FC Bank
  • Novikombank
  • Sovcombank
  • VTB Bank

On 30-31 May 2022, the Council decided on a sixth sanctions package that cover crude oil, as well as petroleum products, delivered from Russia into Member States, with a temporary exception for crude oil delivered by pipeline.

Joint statement on 26 February by the US, UK and EU

On 26 February the US, UK and EU made a joint statement in which additional sanctions were announced, including a decision to remove selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system. This will mean that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system.

Other announced sanctions include

  • restrictive measures that aim to prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of the sanctions; and
  • measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so called golden passports.

The US sanctions (per March 8, 2022)

The United States has, among other things, directed measures against Russia's largest financial institutions corresponding to 80% of Russia's bank assets. These are the following banks and credit institutions.

  • Sberbank
  • VTB Bank
  • Otkritie
  • Sovcombank
  • Novikombank

The measures will enter into force on 26 March and will then mean that the majority of the transactions that take place through the above-mentioned banks and credit institutions will not be able to be completed.

The United States is also acting against ten state-owned companies, including Gazprom, Gazprombank and Gazprom Neft, as well as two privately owned banks (Alfa-Bank and Credit Bank of Moscow). In addition, assets of high-ranking officials in Russia, such as oligarchs and people close to Putin, are being frozen. The United States also imposes an export ban on certain US-made technology products used in the Russian defense and has extended the license requirement for additional categories of products with dual use.

In addition thereto, the US has also put President Putin and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov, and members of the Security Council on the list of persons with frozen assets.

On 8 March 2022, President Biden passed an Execution Order banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal in the US. A ban is also imposed on American investments in Russia’s energy sector and financing or other enabling of foreign companies that make investments to produce energy in Russia.

Counter-sanctions by Russia (as of March 9, 2022)

In response to Western sanctions, Russia has decided to impose counter-sanctions. On March 1, 2022, the President of Russia signed the "Russian Federation President's decree No. 79 of 28 February 2022 and Russian Federation President’s Decree No. 81 of 1 March 2022”. The documents entered into force on 28 February and 2 March 2022, respectively, and are intended to stabilize Russia's economy and the ruble by, among other things, preventing the outflow of capital from Russia. On 5 March 2022, a new decree No. 95 “On Temporary Order of Discharge of Obligations Towards Certain Foreign Creditors” was adapted, which entered into force on the same day.

The first decree (No. 79) gives rise to the following restrictions.

  • Russian natural and legal persons participating in foreign economic activities must sell 80% of their foreign currency obtained through foreign trade with foreign persons;
  • Russian natural and legal persons are prohibited from providing foreign currency through loan agreements to persons not resident in Russia;
  • Russian natural and legal persons are prohibited from crediting foreign currency to their accounts with foreign banks and other financial institutions and from transferring money to them without opening a bank account through foreign payment services;
  • Russian public limited companies are prevented from repurchasing their own securities;

The second decree, Russian Federation President's decree No. 81 of 1 March 2022 covers transactions between Russia and what Russia considers to be "unfriendly states". These transactions will require a special permit from the Russian authorities and are the following transactions

  • Transactions that provide credits and loans in Russian rubles and foreign currency; and
  • Real estate transactions and security transactions that took place after February 22, 2022

However, the prohibitions do not apply to transactions in which Russian authorities are parties. Russia has published a list of the states which constitutes "unfriendly countries", which i.a. entails Sweden and other EU member states, the US, Ukraine, Japan, Norway and Great Britain.

By the third decree, Russian Federation President’s decree No. 95 of 5 March 2022, introduces a special scheme for how residents of Russia may repay debts to companies or persons in or controlled by “unfriendly countries”. Such repayments of more than 10 million roubles (or the equivalent amount in another currency) may i.a. only be made with the permission of the Ministry of Finance or the Russian central bank, or via an account denominated in roubles in a Russian bank, opened in the name of the foreign recipient. The measure can lock in foreign capital into Russian and make it more difficult for companies to establish operations in the country.

External administration of organizations owned by persons from "unfriendly states"

Furthermore, as of 9 March 2022, the Edinaya Rossiya (ruling party of the Russian parliament) stated that the Governmental Committee has approved further measures in an attempt to support the Russian economy. The bill that Edinaya Rossiya approved allows the introduction of external administration in organizations, if more than 25 % of the organization are owned by foreign persons from “unfriendly states”, upon termination of business activities in order to prevent bankruptcy and save jobs. Termination of business activity would suggest that any actions of the shareholders which may cause liquidation, stoppage of activity or bankruptcy, will result in external administration which will be carried out by a Russian state owned bank (VEB.RF in this case). 

According to media, the companies who has announced they were to leave Russia would be able to refuse go into external administration if they, within five days, resume activities or sell their shares, providing that the business and employees has remained. Otherwise, a court would appoint a temporary administration for three months, after which the shares of the new company would be put up for auction and the old one would be liquidated. The buyer of the company would then undertake to retain a minimum of 2/3 of the employees, and would have to continue the activities of the old company for at least a year.  

Since the above mentioned is thus far only a draft, following procedures will need to pass in order for it to be enacted. The draft must be (i) introduced to the State Duma (lower chamber of Russian Parliament), (ii) approved in three (3) readings by the State Duma, (iii) approved by the Council of Federation (upper chamber) and (iv) signed by the President. However, in regards to the ongoing situation, the law may be expected to be come into force within short.

 

Sources:

Press corner | European Commission (europa.eu)

Special meeting of the European Council - Consilium (europa.eu)

U.S. Treasury Announces Unprecedented & Expansive Sanctions Against Russia, Imposing Swift and Severe Economic Costs | U.S. Department of the Treasury

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-on-further-restrictive-economic-measures-26-february-2022

FACT SHEET: United States Bans Imports of Russian Oil, Liquefied Natural Gas, and Coal | The White House

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine: EU agrees new sectoral measures targeting Belarus and Russia - Consilium (europa.eu)EU imposes restrictive measures on 160 individuals as a consequence of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine - Consilium (europa.eu)

Publications Office (europa.eu)