Ukraine War: Impact on EU companies following sanctions on Russia

Mazars is very dismayed to see the current developments occurring in Ukraine. The focus now is definitely on human suffering and the threat to peace in Europe. The sanctions imposed on Russia will, however, also have a massive legal and economic impact on EU companies. On this website, which we will update continuously, we would like to inform you about these restrictions on trade with Russia and how we think these restrictions will affect German companies.

Update from April 12, 2022:

Last Friday, the EU adopted another package of sanctions against Russia, which came into force on the same day (Official Journal EU L111 v. 08.04.2022).

A comprehensive import ban on coal and other solid fossil fuels from Russia into the EU has been introduced. Also banned are the import of cement, rubber products, wood, alcoholic spirits, certain types of seafood, and other items.

Targeted export bans of important goods to Russia (e.g., quantum information technologies, state-of-the-art semiconductors, precision devices, means of transport, chemicals, and catalysts) were introduced for the energy, industrial, and transport sectors there. The sanctions against the transport sector also include a ban on all Russian vessels (except yachts) entering EU ports. In addition, there is now a complete ban on Russian and Belarusian freight forwarders within the EU. The only exceptions are for certain essential goods such as agricultural products, food products, humanitarian aid, and energy.

The financial sector was sanctioned with a full transaction ban on four Russian banks and the freezing of their assets. The EU has also adopted a ban on the provision of high-quality crypto services to Russia and a ban on the provision of consulting to Russian trusts (which are often backed by wealthy Russians).

In addition, the exclusion of Russia from public contracts and European funds has been regulated. For example, Russian citizens and Russian institutions are now totally banned from participating in public procurement in the EU. In addition, the financial and non-financial support of Russian public or publicly-controlled entities under EU, Euratom, and Member State programmes has been restricted.

Finally, a further 217 individuals and 18 institutions are now subject to the already familiar personal sanctions, including all 179 members of the so-called "governments" and "parliaments" of Donetsk and Luhansk (Official Journal EU L110 v. 08.04.2022). This means that since 2014, a total of 1091 people and 80 organisations have been subject to sanctions.

Update from March 17, 2022:

Several days ago, the EU imposed an additional set of sanctions on Russia, effective immediately. These sanctions reinforce or extend the measures taken so far (Official Journal EU L87 I v. 15.03.2022).

The Russian energy sector has been sanctioned by a ban on new investments and a comprehensive set of restrictions on exports of equipment, technologies, and services intended for the energy sector. Extensive trade restrictions have also been imposed on iron, steel, and certain luxury goods. In addition, the EU has joined a multilateral declaration calling for the suspension of the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s most-favoured-nation status with respect to Russian goods and services.

In the area of finance, a comprehensive ban on transactions with certain state-owned Russian companies and a ban on the provision of credit rating services and the granting of access to associated subscription services to Russian persons or organisations will apply from now on.

Finally, the existing consolidated list of persons subject to sanctions has been extended to include people with links to the technological and industrial base of Russian defence, as well as other prominent oligarchs, lobbyists, propagandists, and companies from various sectors.

Update from March 14, 2022:

Last week, the EU further tightened and amended the sanctions against Russia and Belarus. It not only strengthened the existing measures imposed on the Central Bank of Russia but also added maritime navigation goods and technology to the trade and export bans, and imposed financing restrictions on the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (Official Journal EU L81 v. 09.03.2022).

Numerous existing financial sanctions have been extended to include Belarusian banks (including the Central Bank of Belarus). The Belarusian banks Bank Dabrabyt, Belagroprobank, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus, as well as their majority holdings, are excluded from the SWIFT payment system (Official Journal EU L82 v. 09.03.2022).

An additional 160 mostly Russian citizens (in particular businesspersons and members of the Russian Federation Council) were also added to the list of sanctioned individuals affected by the financial and travel restrictions (Official Journal EU L80 v. 09.03.2022).

Update dated March 3, 2022:

Further EU sanctions against Russia have now been imposed. The previously announced exclusion of Russian banks from the international payment system SWIFT has now been implemented (Official Journal of the European Union L63 v. 02.03.2022). Starting on March 12, 2022, it is prohibited to provide specialised financial messaging services for financial transactions, in particular those provided by the payment service provider SWIFT, to certain Russian banks (Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank, VNESHECONOMBANK (VEB) and VTB BANK) and their majority shareholders. Payment transactions with other Russian financial institutions not mentioned here will continue to be possible via SWIFT. In addition, euro banknotes may no longer be transported as cash to Russia, and investments in projects financed/co-financed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund are prohibited.

The Russian state media company Russia Today (RT) and its subsidiaries in the UK, Germany, France, and Spain, as well as Sputnik, have been banned from broadcasting anywhere in the EU to hinder the spread of Russian disinformation and war propaganda (Official Journal of the European Union L65 v. 02.03.2022).

Finally, the list of sanctions already imposed against certain individuals has been extended to include Belarusian military personnel and employees of the Belarusian Ministry of Defence (Official Journal of the European Union L66 v. 02.03.2022). The list now includes 718 individuals and a total of 56 organisations.

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The financial services sector, due to its highly-integrated global network, is also severely affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia. Here we have listed a few of the key processes as well as related topics that probably need to be reviewed. We think you should focus on these issues first. The priorities can, of course, vary from entity to entity.

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Update dated Feb. 28, 2022:

In response to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has launched − in coordination with the US and other partners – further packages of sanctions.

In addition to bans on their entry, the freezing of the assets of certain persons, and the elimination of visa facilitation for Russian diplomats and businesspersons, the second of the three sanctions packages passed so far focuses on exports and the financial sector. It was published in the Official Journal of the European Union L 49 I of 25 February 2022 and addressees the following key points:

Export, Dual Use

The supply of spare parts and other technology to the Russian energy and transport sector is prohibited. This applies to defence companies in particular, as well as shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing companies, which are all banned from supplying any dual-use goods. This ban applies to equipment and technologies (software and other high-tech products). There is also a ban on providing financial support. The supply of machinery, equipment, and technology for the modernisation of oil refineries, and equipment and facilities for the aerospace industry, are also prohibited. The above regulations apply regardless of whether these goods or technologies originate within or outside the EU. Exceptions apply to goods and technologies intended for humanitarian, medical, or pharmaceutical purposes and some other uses.

Stock Trading, Loans, and the Granting of Credit

Trading in the shares of Russian (state) companies is no longer permitted. The granting of new loans or credit to certain legal persons, entities, and bodies is prohibited. However, exceptions are also regulated. Russian banks are also now prohibited from lending or borrowing money in the EU.

Securities Trading, Financial Resources

Restrictions shall be imposed on the purchase and sale, directly or indirectly, of transferable securities and money market instruments issued after 12 April 2022, and on the provision or other trading in investment services or ancillary services at the time of issuance. This applies if the issuance is related to a sanctioned legal person, entity, or body. The provision of public funding or financial support for the trade in, or for, investments in Russia is prohibited.

The third package of sanctions has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union L 57 I of 28 February 2022 and includes:

Transactions

Transactions related to the management of reserves and assets of the Russian Central Bank, including transactions with legal persons, entities, or bodies acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, the Russian Central Bank, are now prohibited.

(Partial) Exclusion from the SWIFT System

Already sanctioned Russian banks are excluded from the international payment system SWIFT. The aim is to exclude these institutions from international financial flows and to significantly restrict their global activities.

Information dated Feb. 25, 2022:

The EU has had restrictive measures against Russia in place since 2014 in response to the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine. The Russian Federation has now recognised the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by separatists, as independent territories and has sent Russian troops to these territories in violation of international law. In response, a few days ago, extensive sanctions were put into effect, which will have a significant impact on commercial transactions with Russian companies. Following yesterday's expansion of the Russian invasion to encompass the whole of Ukraine, further sanctions have been announced against Russia in the areas of finance, energy, transport, and visa policy – in close cooperation with the USA – and the export controls already agreed and in place are being extended to include high-technology products and software.

The new measures just adopted have now been published in the Official Journal of the European Union L 42 I dated February 23, 2022. An implementing Regulation imposes sanctions on other persons and companies: the assets of 335 Duma officials, 21 private individuals, and 4 companies (2 of them banks) were frozen and a ban was put into effect, making the provision of funds to these persons and companies illegal, and banning their entry into, or transit through, the EU. In addition, a ban on providing financing to the Russian Federation, its government, and its central banks was implemented. Access to capital and the financial markets and services is thereby severely restricted.

New regulations

Strict regulations must be observed in trade with Russia from now on, and violators can face severe penalties. Contracts concluded before February 23, 2022 may be subject to certain exceptions. Here is an overview:

Import of goods

All imports of goods from non-government-controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are prohibited. It is now also illegal to provide financing or financial assistance, insurance, and reinsurance for the direct or indirect import of these goods. However, certain goods are excluded from the ban. For companies with subsidiaries in these areas, alternatives (e.g. in the case of consignment warehouses) must be examined in detail.

Export of goods

The sale, supply, transfer, or export of goods or technologies is prohibited, regardless of whether these originated in a Member State. This shall apply to any natural or legal persons, entities, or bodies based in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which are active in the fields of transport, telecommunications, energy, prospecting, exploration, and production of oil, gas, and mineral resources. The provision of technical assistance, training, and other services in the aforementioned areas, including the provision of technical and financial assistance for the export of these goods, is also prohibited.

New investments

It is no longer permissible to purchase, finance, or extend existing investments in properties, institutions, securities of participating nature, or shares in the aforementioned in the oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk. This also applies to the formation of joint ventures with institutions and the provision of investment services in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Provide assistance, services, and activities related to infrastructure

It is prohibited to provide technical assistance, brokering services, construction, or engineering services in the specified territories, in direct connection with infrastructures in the areas of transport, telecommunications, energy, prospecting, exploration, and extraction of oil, gas, and mineral resources. This applies regardless of the place of origin of the goods or technologies.

Tourism activities

The provision of services directly related to tourism activities in the occupied territories is not permitted.

What should you focus on?

In addition to addressing the aspects mentioned above, it is now necessary to engage critically with business partners having relations with Russia and the occupied territories with regard to the application of the sanctions. If violations have already been documented, but also for operational and strategic reasons, it is vital to immediately implement a contingency plan that may also include options for alternative resources, delivery and payment channels, as well as asset protection and related effects on internal and external reporting. The U.S. has also tightened its sanctions, which could also focus attention on European companies not affected by EU sanctions, but with ties to the U.S

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