Home Nonmilitary action US sanctions global network helping Russian military evade export controls

US sanctions global network helping Russian military evade export controls

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Armored vehicles of pro-Russian troops drive along a road during the Ukraine-Russia conflict near Dokuchaievsk in Donetsk region, Ukraine on March 25, 2022.

Alexander Ermoshenko | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against a global network of individuals and front companies it says are helping the Russian military evade multilateral controls on high-tech exports to Moscow while the Kremlin waged war on Ukraine.

At the center of the network is Serniya Engineering, a Moscow-based company that the Biden administration says operates under the direction of Russian intelligence.

From there, the large group of companies extends outward to include defense procurement companies, intermediaries and front companies located in the UK, Spain, Finland, Singapore, Malta and France.

The United States implemented export controls at the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February. The restrictions work in concert with nearly identical export bans that are enforced by the European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and South Korea.

The Treasury also announced new sanctions on Thursday against four technology companies that supply the Russian army with microelectronics, navigation equipment and satellite imagery software.

One of them, Mikron, is also Russia’s largest chipmaker. The company is responsible for debit card chips in Russia’s domestic payment system, Mir, which was developed in response to previous Western sanctions.

The United States has also identified three other sectors of the Russian economy – aerospace, marine and electronics – as potential sanctions targets given their strategic importance to the country’s defense industrial base.

Until now, the only sectors deemed strategically important to the Kremlin’s war effort were financial services, technology and defense industries.

The Treasury also named a Russian government agency responsible for the development and deployment of the notorious Triton cyberattack malware, as well as several senior officials.

The designation came amid heightened fears within the White House and US intelligence agencies that Russia could launch a cyberattack on US critical infrastructure.

Several weeks ago, US officials took the extraordinary step of holding detailed and classified briefings for several hundred infrastructure companies they believe are at greatest risk of being targeted by Russian cyber warfare.

A cyberattack on a non-military target is widely seen as the simplest and most direct way Russian President Vladimir Putin could retaliate against the Biden administration for its leadership role in assembling the alliance. world of countries that have hampered the Russian economy with sanctions and supplied weapons. and aid to Ukraine.

The Treasury Department website contains a full list of new sanctions, which affect 21 entities and 13 individuals.

Unlike previous rounds of sanctions that targeted the Russian economy and its defense sector in response to the war in Ukraine, the package announced Thursday does not specifically name other countries that will impose the same designations.

However, the Treasury Department said it was taking the steps “in close coordination with our partners who are similarly committed to ensuring that the Russian Federation does not exploit their jurisdictions for destructive purposes.”

Overall, the new sanctions reflect Washington’s commitment not to become complacent after the first round of coordinated sanctions imposed at the start of the Russian invasion in late February.

White House officials have said they will continue to seek ways to weaken Russia’s military infrastructure as long as the Kremlin continues its botched and brutal invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia not only continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty with its unprovoked aggression, but has also escalated its attacks on civilians and population centers,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement announcing the news. sanctions on Thursday.

In response, she said, “We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from all angles, until this senseless war of choice is over.”

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