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Russia/Belarus Sanctions - Year in Review

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As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the two-year mark, now is an appropriate time to take stock of the variety of trade sanction measures which have been put in place throughout this year.

Background

Importers will recall the government’s swift decision to remove “Most-Favoured-Nation” (“MFN”) tariff status from both Russia and Belarus in March 2022.

Since then, and as we have blogged about here, here, here, and most recently here, Canada has continued to announce further import and export measures to isolate Russia and Belarus on the world stage (as well as the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine which Russia recognized the independence of).

The sanctions largely flow from three regulations under the Special Economic Measures Act (“SEMA”): Special Economic Measures (Russia) Regulations (the “Russia Regulations”), the Special Economic Measures (Belarus) Regulations(the “Belarus Regulations”), and the Special Economic Measures (Ukraine) Regulations (the “Ukraine Regulations”) which have been amended 19 times collectively in 2023 alone.

2023 Updates

The current set of Russia Regulations impose three kinds of sanctions: (1) asset freezes; (2) export and import restrictions; and (3) financial prohibitions (i.e., “dealings bans”). The most recent updates in 2023 involve significant increases to the number of named prohibited individuals and entities in Schedule 1, which prevents Canadians or Canadian businesses from engaging in a wide variety of financial transactions with those named individuals/entities (as well as an effective Canadian asset freeze).

The additions include many individuals connected to various Russian state apparatuses and paramilitary contractors as well as individuals in the Russian cultural or educational sectors who have voiced their support for the invasion of Ukraine. Further amendments also prohibit persons in Canada from exporting, supplying, or shipping arms to any person in Russia and the provision of technical or other services in relation to those activities.

The current Belarus Regulations mirror the same restrictions imposed on Russia. All of the 2023 updates involve naming additional individuals and entities to Schedule 1, including senior Belarusian political and military officials, Belarusian banks not previously sanctioned by Canada, and judges and family members of currently listed individuals.

The current Ukraine Regulations also follow suit. All of the 2023 updates add additional individuals and entities to Schedule 1. This group includes persons connected to Russia’s theft of Ukrainian cultural artifacts, including certain Ukrainians found to be collaborating with Russia employed at as well as paramilitary groups fighting for Russia that originate in Ukraine.

Takeaways

As always, businesses with trade and commercial links to these areas should take immediate steps to Russian and Belarus need to comply with Canadian sanctions international sanctions — which can change often and with little warning.

Penalties for non-compliance are severe and can include five years imprisonment and significant fines. Legal advice is a must!

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