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Update: New Russia and Belarus Sanctions (as of 14 April 2022)

As a reaction to the decision by the Russian Federation to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities, and the subsequent decision to send Russian troops into several areas of the Ukraine, the EU has adopted economic sanctions against Russia.

The EU has adopted five packages of measures. A first package of sanctions was adopted on 23 February 2022, a second package on 25 February 2022, a third package on 28 February 2022, a fourth package on 15 March 2022 and most recently a fifth package on 8 April 2022. More sanctions can be expected to follow as the conflict in Ukraine develops.

The EU had already imposed certain sanctions against Russia in 2014. In light of the Russian annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, the EU imposed sanctions on Russia and Russian individuals, included travel bans and asset freezes, trade restrictions with Crimea/Sevastopol, restricted access to EU capital markets for certain Russian banks and businesses, an arms embargo on Russia, an export ban on dual-use goods for military use/end-users, and export restrictions on certain sensitive technologies for oil production and exploration (see Fieldfisher press release).

Several sanctions were also extended to Belarus. A first package of additional sanctions was imposed on 2 March 2022, shortly followed by a second package on 9 March 2022.

As these widened sanctions have significant effects on European stakeholders' business interests in Russia, Belarus and the contested areas of Ukraine, this brief provides an overview of the new measures and explains how they fit within the context of the existing sanctions.

The EU sanctions on Russia consist essentially of three legal frameworks:

  1. Denied party listings: Regulation 269/2014 imposed restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine
  2. Substantial sanctions against Russia: Regulation 833/2014 imposed restrictive measures in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine
  3. Restrictions on trade with separatist Ukrainian regions: These have been implemented by Regulation 2022/263 for Donetsk and Luhansk and Regulation 692/2014 for Crimea and Sebastopol
  4. Substantial sanctions against Belarus: Regulation 2006/398 imposed restrictive measures in view of the involvement of Belarus in the Russian aggression against Ukraine

Regulation 269/2014 – Restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine

Asset freezes and travel bans

Regulation 269/2014 imposes financial sanctions on specific individuals and entities. In light of the recent military actions by Russia in Ukraine, the EU added several hundreds of individuals and entities to the list. Currently, measures apply to 1091 individuals and 80 entities, which have gradually been added to Annex I of Regulation 269/2014.

In the first package of the most recent sanctions, the EU added the 336 members of the Russian Parliament (the State Duma) who voted in favor of the recognition of the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk to the sanctions list, as well as 22 further individuals, three banks (Rossiya Bank, Promsvyanzbank and VEB) and one other entity (the Internet Research Agency).

The second package added further key individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the members of the Security Council who supported the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the members of the Duma who supported the ratification of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between Russia and Donetsk and Luhansk. The scope of the list was also expanded to individuals outside Russia with the inclusion of individuals who facilitated the Russian military intervention from Belarus.

Moreover, the criteria for listing have been expanded and now include "leading business persons" in economic sectors providing substantive revenue to the Russian government. This will allow targeting the entire Russian government and their family members, oligarchs and any person active in the leading sectors of the Russian economy.

Following this trend, the EU adopted a third package of 26 additions to the sanctions list. It includes oligarchs and businesspeople in the oil, banking and finance sectors as well as government members, high-level military, propagandists and one entity.
In another addition, the EU added 160 individuals to the list on 9 March 2022. The listed individuals include Russian oligarchs and businesspeople, and their family members. Moreover, also the members of the Russian Federal Council who ratified the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between Russia and Donetsk and Luhansk were listed. On 10 March 2022, the information for 37 individuals and six entities in Annex I was amended in light of a review by the Council.

The fourth package of measures added yet again 15 oligarchs, businesspeople from economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the regime, lobbyists and propagandists as well as 9 entities active in the aviation, military and dual use, shipbuilding and machine building sectors.

Besides the addition of 217 individuals and 18 entities, including 4 previously sanctioned banks (Regulation 2022/581), the fifth package of sanctions also added a new ground for the release of funds for diplomatic missions, consular posts or international organisations and special grounds for the listed state-owned Russian banks (Regulation 2022/580).

Listed individuals and entities are subject to asset freezes and a prohibition of making available funds or resources applicable to all persons in the EU. All individuals are also subject to an EU travel ban, with the exception of for instance Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Shortly before the adoption of the two most recent packages of sanctions, five individuals were added to the list of individuals and entities on 21 February 2022. These additions were not linked to the current security situation (press release).

Regulation 833/2014 – Restrictive measures in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine

Trade and investment restrictions

The economic sanctions against Russia include a wide range of trade and investment restrictions on various economic sectors including dual-use items, defence and security, energy, aviation, maritime, steel and luxury goods:

  • Dual-use goods and advance technology (Art. 2 and Art. 2b-2d): The sanctions include reinforced restrictions on dual-use goods and technologies, whether originating in the EU or not, to any person or entity in Russia. The EU imposes a prohibition on the sale, supply, transfer or export of dual-use goods as defined in Annex I to the Dual-Use Regulation, as well as the provision of assistance, brokering services or other services and financing or financial assistance in relation to dual-use goods. Exceptions apply for the case where such goods are used for non-military use, subject to a registration in the customs declaration as well as a declaration to the competent authorities of the first use. The EU Member States may also grant authorisations for the sale, supply, transfer or export of dual-use goods, subject to the conditions of Art. 2b-2d of the Regulation.
  • Defence and security sector (Art. 2a and Art. 2b-2d): New restrictions are applied on goods which might contribute to Russia's military and technological enhancement and the development of the defence and security sectors, whether originating in the EU or not. This includes for instance semiconductors, cutting-edge technologies and other goods (Annex VII). The restrictions are similar to trade restrictions applied on dual-use goods. Exceptions for non-military use apply and EU Member States may also grant authorisations subject to the same conditions of Art. 2b-2d of the Regulation.
  • Public financing of any trade or investment (Art. 2e): The EU imposed a new, far-reaching prohibition of the provision of public financing or financial assistance for trade with, or investment in, Russia. Exceptions apply for commitments prior to 26 February 2022, financing up to 10 million EUR per project to SMEs and financing for trade in food and trade for agricultural, medical and humanitarian purposes. On 2 March 2022, the EU added an explicit prohibition to invest, participate or otherwise contribute to projects co-financed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
  • Energy sector (Art. 3, 3a and 3b):  Sector-specific sanctions apply on goods for use in the energy sector. These energy-related measures are intended to make it harder and more costly for Russia to upgrade its oil refineries. Currently, three restrictive measures are in place. First, the EU imposed a prohibition of the sale, supply, transfer or export of oil-refining goods and technology, as well as the provision of technical assistance, brokering services or other services and financing or financial assistance on energy-related goods (Annex X). Second, the prohibition to participate in oil exploration and production in Russia currently in place was expanded to a broad ban on new investment across the Russian energy sector). Limited exceptions are foreseen for civil nuclear energy and the transport of certain energy products back to the EU. Third, in its fourth package of measures, the EU instated a general prohibition to trade energy-related goods listed in Annex II. Several exceptions should inter alia prevent energy security in the EU and prevent human, health or environmental disasters.
  • Aviation/space sector (Art. 3c): New sector-specific sanctions apply in the aviation and space industry sectors, whether originating in the EU or not (Annex XI). Prohibitions include the prohibition of the export, sale and supply or transfer of aircrafts, aircraft parts or aircraft equipment, including repair, maintenance and financial services, insurance and reinsurance in relation to such goods, technical assistance, brokering services and other services, financing or financial assistance. Importantly, the overhaul, repair, inspection, replacement, modification and defect rectification are also prohibited (with the exception of pre-flight inspections). The fifth package extended the prohibitions to jet fuels and fuel additives, which may be used by the Russian army (Annex XX as inserted by Regulation 2022/576) and added additional derogation grounds.
  • Maritime navigation goods technology (Art. 3f): The EU prohibited also the sale, supply, transfer and export, as well the provision of related technical, brokering, financial or other services of maritime navigation goods and technology to any person in Russia or for placing on board of Russian-flagged vessels. The list of goods affected is included in Annex XVI and includes navigation equipment and radio-communication technology.
  • Iron and steel products (Art. 3g): The EU instated an import ban on iron and steel products originating in Russia or exported from Russia (Annex XVII), except with regards to the execution of contracts previously concluded.
  • Luxury goods (Art. 3h): An EU export ban to Russia applies to luxury goods with a value of more than EUR 300 per item. The export ban aims to affect the Russian elite's lifestyle. To that extent, the list of luxury goods includes cars, jewelry, electronics, watches, art and other food and leisure goods (Annex XVIII). Regulation 2022/576 later included an exception for cultural goods on loan in the context of formal cultural cooperation with Russia.
  • Other goods (Art. 3i): Furthermore, new import prohibitions were instated on various goods such as wood, cement, fertilizers, seafood and liquor (Annex XXI as inserted by Regulation 2022/576).
  • Coal and fossil fuel (Art. 3j): An import ban on all forms of Russian coal was instated with the fifth package of sanctions (Annex XXII as inserted by Regulation 2022/576). The prohibition extends to providing technical assistance, brokering, financing and other services related to coal imports.
  • High-technology goods (Art. 3k): There is a further export ban on technological and industrial goods for which Russia is dependent on EU inputs, including quantum computing, advanced semiconductors, sensitive machinery, transportation and chemicals (Annex XXIII as inserted by Regulation 2022/576).

Financial sanctions

The EU measures target transactions with major banks and companies in several economic sectors in Russia as well as all transactions with the Russian Central Bank:

  • Access to capital markets and loans/credit (Art. 5): The EU imposed prohibitions on dealing with transferable securities and other money-market instruments. It is prohibited to purchase, sell, provide investment services for, assist in the insurance of, or otherwise deal with transferable securities and money-market instruments from several companies in the Russian economy. These include major state-owned and private credit institutions (Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, VEB and Rosselkhozbank, and Alfa Bank, Bank Otkritie, Bank Rossiya and Promsvyazbank, Annex III and Annex XII), companies in the military and defence sectors (Annex V), companies exporting oil products (Annex VI) and other entities (Annex XIII). In Annex XIII, the EU later added the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. Moreover, it is prohibited to grant any new loans or credits to these entities, save in certain exceptional cases where objectives have been documented or with relation to contracts concluded before 26 February 2022.
  • Transactions with the Russian Central Bank (Art. 5a): In the first recent package of sanctions, the EU prohibited purchasing, selling, providing investment services, insuring or otherwise dealing with certain transferable securities and money-market instruments issued by the Russian Federation, its government, Central Bank or any person acting on behalf of the Central Bank. Moreover, it adopted a prohibition be part of any arrangement to make new loans or credit to any of these entities. The EU later prohibited all transactions with the Russian Central Bank. The scope of the prohibition spans all transactions related to the management of the reserves as well as the assets of the Central Bank and covers transactions with any legal person, entity or body acting on behalf of the Central Bank. Exceptionally, transactions may be authorised if strictly necessary for the financial stability of the EU or a Member State. In another step of broadening the prohibition, the EU explicitly added the Russian National Wealth Fund as an entity acting on behalf of or under the direction from the Russian Central Bank.
  • Transactions with SOEs (Art. 5aa): The EU instated a full prohibition on any transactions with certain Russian SOEs across different sectors. The targeted companies are 12 SOEs which are publically controlled, with more than 50% public ownership, where the Russian Government or Central Bank participates in the profit, or where it has significant economic relationships. Importantly, the listed SOEs include Roseft and Gazprom (Annex XIX). Limited exceptions, for instance for existing contracts, raw material imports and energy projects, are foreseen.

Restrictions on financial services to Russian nationals

The EU sanctions against Russia also include several prohibitions on the provision of financial services to Russian nationals:  

  • Deposits and euro-denominated securities (Art. 5b-5g): The EU prohibits the acceptance of any deposits from Russian nationals and residents or legal persons established in Russia of more than 100,000 EUR, and later also crypto assets (Regulation 2022/576). Exceptions apply for nationals of an EU Member State or persons having a temporary or permanent residence permit in a Member State – which was later extended to the EEA and Switzerland. EU central securities depositories are prohibited from providing any services for transferable securities to any Russian national or entity. The measures are intended to prevent the Russian elite to hide their money in the EU.
  • Exclusion from SWIFT system (Art. 5h): As of 12 March 2022, a prohibition came in place to provide specialised financial messaging services to exchange financial data to seven Russian banks (Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank, VEB and VTB Bank) and Russian subsidiaries owned for more than 50% by these banks (Annex XIV). This prohibition follows an investigation of the consequences of the measures by the ECT (press release) and political support by the Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Canada and the US (joint statement).
  • Banknotes in EU-denominated currencies (Art. 5i): The EU prohibits to sell, supply, transfer or export banknotes denominated in any official currency of a Member State to Russia, save for personal use and diplomatic missions, consular posts or international organisations in Russia (Regulation 2022/576). The prohibition was originally limited to euro-denominated banknotes.
  • Prohibition to provide credit ratings (Art. 5j): As of 15 April 2022, the EU imposes a prohibition on providing credit rating services and bans access to any subscription services in relation to credit rating activities for any person or entity in Russia (Regulation 2022/428).
  • Public contracts (Art. 5k): The EU also restricted the participation of Russian nationals, entities and bodies in EU public procurement contracts, meaning that it is prohibited to award or continue the execution of any public or concession contract with more than 10% Russian involvement (Regulation 2022/576).
  • Excluding Russia from European money (Art. 5l): EU, Euratom or Member State programme are not allowed to provide financial or non-financial support from a to Russian publicly owned or controlled entities (Regulation 2022/576). Exceptions apply for humanitarian, (phyto)sanitary, mobility, climate change and diplomatic purposes.
  • Prohibition to advise on trusts (Art. 5m): EU persons are prohibited from advising Russian on trusts (Regulation 2022/576). The prohibition spans over providing registration, management services, acting as trustee, nominee, director, shareholder, secretary or any other similar position. The measures are intended to prevent Russians from storing their wealth in the EU.

Restrictions on transportation

  • Closure of the EU airspace (Art. 3d): On 28 February 2022, the EU adopted a prohibition for any aircraft operated by Russian air carriers, or for any Russian registered aircraft, or for any aircraft otherwise controlled by any Russian natural or legal person, to take off from or overfly the territory of the EU (Regulation 2022/334).
  • Closure of the EU ports (Art. 3ea): As of 16 April 2022, the EU prohibits access of Russian vessels to any vessel registered under the Russian flag. The prohibition applies save cases of emergencies, humanitarian purposes or to trade in the energy and other goods (see Annex XXIV and Annex XXII as inserted by (Regulation 2022/576).
  • Transport (Art. 3l): A full prohibition for any Russian road transport undertaking in the EU was instated with the fifth package of sanctions (Regulation 2022/576). Exemptions cover agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid, energy as well as cultural goods on loan.

Other measures

  • Suspension of broadcasting by Russian state-owned new stations in the EU (Art. 2f): On 1 March 2022, the EU suspended the broadcasting activities in the EU of the Russian state-owned outlets Russia Today and Sputnik (Annex XV). This entails a broad prohibition on any means of broadcasting in the EU via cable, satellite, IP-TV, internet service providers, internet video-sharing platforms or applications.
  • Russia's MFN status at the WTO: The EU and other like-minded partners such as Albania, Australia, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia and Norway will stop granting Russia MFN treatment within the WTO framework (press release). This decision follows a joint statement by the G7 (here) and action by other countries such as Canada (here). Removing MFN treatment allows clears the way to apply higher tariffs on Russian imports than applied to other WTO partners.

Regulation 2022/263 – Restrictive measures in response to the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine and the ordering of Russian armed forces into those areas

Goods from Donetsk and Luhansk are subject to a total trade ban and investment prohibitions (Regulation 2022/263). These restrictions largely mirror the existing restrictions with respect to Crimea and Sevastopol.

  • Import and export ban (Art. 2): The measures impose a total import ban (subject to certain exceptions) on goods originating in Donetsk and Luhansk. In particular, the measures include a prohibition to import goods from Donetsk and Luhansk into the EU, or the provision of financing or insurance services for such imports.
  • Investment prohibition (Art. 3 and 7): The measures prohibit acquiring real estate, acquiring ownership of companies, granting loans or credits, creating joint ventures or providing investment services. It leaves room, however, for certain derogations from these prohibitions subject to the strict conditions of the Regulation. 
  • Export restrictions (Art. 4-6 and 7): The provision of export goods and technology, as well as certain tourism and other services are also prohibited under the Regulation. It leaves room, however, for certain derogations from these prohibitions subject to the strict conditions of the Regulation.

Regulation 2006/398 – Restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus and the involvement of Belarus in the Russian aggression against Ukraine

The EU also imposes restrictive measures on Belarus. Sanctions were already in place, with various additions in the aftermath of the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020. The EU prolonged the existing package of measures with 1 year and added several new measures (Regulation 765/2006):

  • Designated individuals and entities: The EU added several Belarusian individuals and entities to the list, which have gradually been added to Annex I of Regulation 269/2014. Designated persons are subject to an asset freeze, a prohibition to make funds or economic resources available and a travel ban.
  • Trade and investment restrictions: The sanctions include first an export prohibition on dual-use goods and technology, expanded to the provision of technical assistance, brokering, financing or other services (Art. 1e).  Furthermore, export restrictions apply to a broad range of goods which might contribute to Belarus’s military and technological enhancement, or to the development of its defence and security sector (Annex Va). In both cases, a number of exceptions apply, and authorisations can be granted by national authorities (Art. 1fa-1fc). Furthermore, tobacco products, mineral fuels, potash products, wood, cement, iron and steel and rubber products (Annex X-XIV) are subject to import and export restrictions. 
  • Financial sanctions: In a second package, the EU added several financial sanctions applicable to Belarus. The sanctions are inspired by sanctions applicable to Russia and include, inter alia, a full prohibition of transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus (Art. 1ja). The EU further extended the SWIFT ban to 3 Belarusian banks: Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus (Art. 1zb) as well as deposit restrictions exceeding €100.000 from Belarusians in the EU (Art. 1u-1w) and a prohibition to provide euro-denominated banknotes to Belarus (Art. 1za). Finally, as of 12 April 2022, it is prohibited to list and provide services on trading platforms in the e EU for transferable securities to Belarusian entities with more than 50% public ownership (Art. 1jb).
In light of the fast expansion and fast-changing nature of the sanctions imposed on Russia, there is a clear objective to discourage trade with Russia and Belarus. Business operators have to be very prudent in both business planning and transactions, and should be aware of several pitfalls arising from the restrictive measures. Even where the EU sanctions measures will allow trading activities, restrictions in force can impede the receipt of payments in relation to business activities.

For further information on the EU Russia sanctions, please contact Jochen Beck.

 

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