On September 13th, the European Union extended its sanctions on Russia for another six months, until March 2019.
The sanctions include visa bans and asset freeze against 155 Russian and Ukrainian individuals, as well as 44 companies, for undermining or threatening the independence of Ukraine.
A statement issued by the European Council said that “an assessment of the situation did not justify a change in the sanctions regime.”
The list of sanctioned individuals includes the Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko who was killed in an explosion in the eastern city on August 31. Also present in it is the Iosif Kobzon, a deceased member of the Russian Duma.
Radio Free Europe cited unnamed EU sources who claim that both individuals will most likely be removed from the list at a later point. However currently the bloc needs to ensure that their assets held in the EU aren’t passed over to someone else after their removal from the list.
As published on the European Council’s website the sanctions were first imposed in March 2014 over “Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol”. They have been renewed every six months since then. They have been now extended until March 15.
Also on September 13th, the European Union’s general court upheld sanctions against Russian banks and oil and gas companies over their involvement in the Ukraine crisis. Rosneft, Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprom Neft, Vnesheconombank, Prominvestbank and DenizBank challenged the EU sanctions, which restrict their access to some financial transactions and certain sensitive goods and technologies, as well as to the capital markets in the EU and prohibit the provision of services required for certain oil transactions.
Ukraine also sanctions Russian banks that operate within the country, despite the countries staying outside of Crimea to avoid any such actions. On September 5th, The Court of Appeal of Kyiv satisfied an appeal by a number of companies affiliated with Ihor Kolomoisky and his partners, as reported by Unian and imposed arrest on shares of several banks, which include Prominvestbank (owned by the Russian state corporation Vnesheconombank); shares of Sberbank (owned by the Russian Sberbank); shares of VTB Bank (owned by the Russian state-owned bank); shares of VTB Bank (owned by Russian state-owned VTB Bank.
“The General Court of the EU upholds restrictive measures adopted by the Council against a number of Russian banks and oil and gas companies in connection with the crisis in Ukraine,” the court’s statement read.
On September 11th, Reuters cited two unnamed sources who claimed that US President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order as soon as September 12th that will impose sanctions on any foreign companies or people who interfere in U.S. elections, based on intelligence agency findings.
Trump’s decision coincides with intelligence agencies, military and law enforcement preparing to defend the Nov. 6 congressional elections from predicted foreign attacks.
The White House refused comment.
Reuters also cited an unnamed US official who said that sanction targets could include individual people or entire companies accused of interfering in U.S. elections by cyber attacks or other means. “The administration is keen to set a new norm in cyberspace,” the official said. “This is a first step in stating boundaries and publicly announcing our response for bad behavior.”
According to Reuters, the order represents the latest of a series of Trump Administration efforts to present itself as tough on election security before the vote in November.
This all comes amidst the continuing investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
On September 12th, Donald Trump did, in fact, sign the executive order allowing the abovementioned. Trump signed the order behind closed doors with no reporters present. “As I have made clear, the United States will not tolerate any form of foreign meddling in our elections,” Trump said in a statement.
According to National security advisor John Bolton, sanctions could include freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions, limiting access to U.S. financial institutions, and prohibiting U.S. citizens from investing in companies involved. He also said that sanctions may be imposed during or after an election, based on the gathered evidence.
Criticism over Donald Trump’s handling of the alleged 2016 Russian meddling in the elections had nothing to do with his decision to sign the order, according to John Bolton. “The president has said repeatedly that he is determined that there not be foreign interference in our political process,” Bolton said on a conference call. “I think his actions speak for themselves.”
The order would direct intelligence agencies to assess whether any people or entities interfered. The information would be provided to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and then based on their assessment of the validity and impact, trigger automatic sanctions, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said. Intelligence agencies would have 45 days to make an assessment. Then the two departments would have 45 days to determine whether action is required, he told reporters. The State and Treasury departments would decide on additional sanctions to recommend and impose.
Coats also said the United States had seen signs of election meddling from Russia and China, and potential capabilities for such meddling from Iran and North Korea.