Since March 2014, the European Union (EU) has implemented a set of sanctions targeting the Russian Federation (Russia) for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This package of measures was subsequently extended and modified and includes measures to limit access to EU capital markets for Russian public financial institutions, an arms trade embargo, a ban on the export of goods dual-use for military use and end users, and restrictions on access to certain sensitive technologies, particularly in the oil sector.

As a result of (a) Russian reconnaissance and the dispatch of troops to the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast regions of Ukraine, and (b) Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine , the EU has recently adopted additional sets of sanctions which are briefly discussed below.

First package of sanctions

On 23 February 2022, the Council of the European Union (Council)1 agreed on a set of sanctions to respond to Russia’s decision to recognize areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in Ukraine as independent entities, and the decision to send Russian troops to these areas. In all cases, the measures are applicable as soon as they are published.

This package includes the following:

  • Restrictions on the ability of the Russian state and government to access EU capital and financial markets and services;

  • Restrictions on economic relations with areas not controlled by the government of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. These restrictions relate to certain goods and technologies intended for use in the telecommunications, transport, energy and oil production sectors;

  • The EU has extended sanctions to cover the 351 members of Russia’s State Duma who voted on February 15, 2022 in favor of calling on Putin to recognize the independence of the self-declared ‘republics’ of Donetsk and from Lugansk;2 and

  • Sanctions against other individuals and entities that have contributed to undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

Second round of sanctions

Following a special meeting of the European Council3 on 24 February 2022, the Council agreed on a new set of sanctions against Russia in connection with its invasion of Ukraine on 25 February 2022.

This package includes the following:

  • Extend existing financial restrictions. These new restrictions aim to reduce Russia’s access to major financial markets. They prohibit the listing and provision of services related to shares of Russian public entities on EU trading venues. In addition, they prohibit the acceptance of deposits exceeding certain values ​​from Russian nationals or residents, the maintenance of Russian client accounts by central securities depositories in the EU and the sale of euro-denominated securities to Russian people;

  • A ban on the sale, supply, transfer or export to Russia of certain goods and technologies related to oil refining and related services;

  • Additional restrictions on exports of dual-use goods and technologies, and restrictions on exports of certain goods and technologies that may contribute to the technological improvement of its defence/security sector, including, for example, semi- conductors;

  • The freezing of assets of Putin and Lavrov;

  • Sanctions against members of Russia’s National Security Council who supported Russia’s recognition of the two non-government controlled areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as “republics”. The sanctions will also be extended to the remaining members of the Russian State Duma (i.e. members not yet targeted by the first EU sanctions package) who have ratified the government decision of the treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance between Russia and the two “republics”;

  • Diplomats, other Russian officials and business people will no longer be able to benefit from visa facilitation provisions allowing privileged access to the EU; and • A new series of individual and economic measures covering Belarus, targeting those who facilitated Russian military aggression from Belarus. This includes that all funds and economic resources owned, owned, held or controlled by such persons must be frozen. Other sanctions On February 26, 2022, the leaders of the European Commission (Commission), France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States adopted a joint declaration on new restrictive economic measures. In the joint statement, the following sanctions are announced:

  • The removal of some Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system;

  • The introduction of restrictive measures preventing the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in a way that undermines the impact of sanctions;

  • Take steps to limit so-called golden passports;

  • The forthcoming launch of a transatlantic task force which will ensure the effective implementation of financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned persons. In this context, the leaders will also engage other governments around the world; and

  • Strengthen coordination against disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.

On February 27, 2022, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced new sanctions. At the time of writing this GT Alert, the full text of these penalties is not yet available, but we understand that these penalties include the following:

  • Prohibition of all aircraft belonging to Russia, registered in Russia or under Russian control from landing, taking off or flying over EU territory;

  • A ban in Europe on Russia Today and Sputnik, and their affiliates;

  • An additional series of sanctions in connection with the Lukashenko regime, including a ban on exporting products from Belarus (for example, mineral fuels, tobacco, wood, cement, iron and steel) and the extension of export restrictions with respect to dual-use goods similar to those destined for Russia.

Conclusion

The new sets of EU sanctions are part of a multilateral sanctions response that includes measures already announced or currently being considered by the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as, for example, Germany’s decision to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Given the likely overlapping, but potentially distinct, sanctions regimes imposed by different authorities around the world, companies and organizations doing business in Russia, Belarus and/or or in parts of Ukraine should assess all of their business operations there to understand and be prepared to respond to any set of trade sanctions and controls that may be coming in the days and weeks ahead.

Companies and organizations should also be aware that existing EU sanctions remain in full force. They are therefore well advised to focus more on compliance with EU sanctions and exercise greater caution and due diligence when doing business with Russia. In this regard, it is important to realize how important EU sanctions can be since the restrictive measures apply:

a) Within the territory of the EU, including its airspace;

(b) On board any aircraft or vessel under the jurisdiction of an EU Member State;

(c) to any person inside or outside the territory of the EU who is a national of an EU Member State;

(d) to any legal person, entity or entity, inside or outside the territory of the EU, which is incorporated or incorporated under the law of an EU Member State; and

(e) To any legal person, entity or body in connection with any activity carried out wholly or partly within the EU.

Finally, developments within the EU regarding sanctions against Russia – and Belarus – are very dynamic and ongoing, and changes can occur quickly and unexpectedly. As events unfold, it is therefore important to continuously monitor and review the situation.

©2022 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 59