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Only when caught out

March 20, 2022 - 09:47 -- Admin

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sanctions have been imposed on Russia and numerous Russian oligarchs as well as other individuals and organisations. The United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Canada banned certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that facilitates payments among 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries. Germany also halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline following Moscow’s actions1.

The Morrison government followed suit, applying sanctions on February 24th to eight members of Russia’s Security Council in recognition of the Council’s role in supporting the invasion of Ukraine, 25 individuals including ‘army commanders, deputy defence ministers and Russian mercenaries, and four entities ‘involved in the development and sale of military technology and weapons’. The sanctions also prevent Australian individuals and entities from conducting business with the following banks (including freezing assets): Promsvyazbank, Industrial Savings Bank, Genbank and the Black Sea Bank for Development and Reconstruction. On February 25-27 sanctions were extended to 339 members of the Russian Parliament who voted in favour of recognising the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics, eight persons holding senior leadership positions in banks, social media, oil, gas and transport companies, and companies that support the Russian armed forces, as well as key Belarusian individuals and entities who have provided support to Russia and 5 individuals holding senior positions in the Russian Government, including the current President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov2.

While the list of oligarchs targeted for sanctions varies from place to place, on March 10th, the UK government provided a list of those targeted by them. They include Roman Abramovich (owner of Chelsea Football Club), Oleg Deripaska (shareholder in En+ Group), Igor Sechin (CEO of energy company Rosneft), Andrey Kostin (Chairman of VTB Bank), Alexei Miller (CEO of energy company Gazprom), Nikolai Tokarev (President of state-owned pipeline company Transneft), and Dmitri Lebedev (Chairman of Bank Rossiya)3. Victor Vekselberg was added to this list, with numerous others, on five days later4.

On March 11th, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued sanctions targeting Russian and Kremlin elites, oligarchs, and Russia’s political and national security leaders who have supported the invasion of Ukraine. These included three immediate family members of President Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitriy Peskov; Russian tycoon and Kremlin insider Viktor Vekselberg; as well as the Management Board of the sanctioned VTB Bank. Additionally, OFAC designated 12 members of the Russian State Duma, including Vyacheslav Volodin, who is also a permanent member of Russia’s Security Council. The list also includes the management board of VTB Bank and numerous members of the Russian State Duma5.

In addition to sanctioning Putin directly in late February, Canada has targeted more than a dozen top government and political officials in Russia, as well as former political players and their associates. In addition to putting direct pressure on Putin’s political inner circle, Canada has attempted to pressure Putin through some of his closest allies among the country’s powerful oligarchs. These include Oleg Deripaska, Sergei Chemezov (CEO of state-owned defence conglomerate Rostec), Nikolai Tokarev, Yevgeny Prigozhin (of the Internet Research Agency [IRA] troll farm), the Rotenberg brothers (Boris and Arkady, owners of SMP bank), as well as energy sector executives from Rosneft and Gazprom6. 

On March 14th, the Australian government listed oligarchs who were the target of sanctions. These included Roman Abramovich, Alexey Miller, Dmitri Lebedev, Sergey Chemezov (Chair of Rostec), Nikolay Tokarev, Igor Shuvalov (Chairman Vnesheconombank) and Kirill Dmitriev (CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund)7.

It was pointed out by the inimitable Ronni Salt that there were two obvious oligarchs (Deripaska and Vekselberg) who missed out on being sanctioned by Australia. Why was this? Because they had significant assets in Australia. Deripaska has a stake in a Rio Tinto run alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland, while Viktor Vekselberg has an interest in a gas project with Origin Energy in the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory. After being found out, the Morrison government only added Deripaska and Vekselberg to the list of oligarchs sanctioned on Friday (March 18th). As if to demonstrate the ham-fisted nature of the sanctions regime imposed by the Morrison government, while the sanctions now apply to Deripaska and Vekselberg, they do not apply to the corporate entities through which these oligarchs hold their interests in the Australian assets8.

One wonders if Ronni Salt had not exposed this omission, would Deripaska or Vekselberg have faced any sanctions at all from Australia. The Morrison government only seems to do what is required when they are caught out.

Sources

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/25/business/list-global-sanctions-russia-ukraine-war-intl-hnk/index.html
  2. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2022/February/Sanctions_on_Russia
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/abramovich-and-deripaska-among-seven-oligarchs-targeted-in-estimated-15bn-sanction-hit
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-announces-historic-round-of-sanctions-15-march-2022
  5. https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0650
  6. https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/oligarchs-politicos-and-putin-meet-the-russians-canada-has-recently-sanctioned-1.5810889
  7. https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/australia-joins-uk-and-us-sanctioning-key-russian-oligarchs
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/18/australian-government-extends-sanctions-to-russian-oligarchs-oleg-deripaska-and-viktor-vekselberg