The United States has imposed new sanctions targeting 18 individuals and more than 120 entities based in Russia and Kyrgyzstan in a move aimed at inhibiting Moscow’s access to products and technology that support its war efforts.
The entities include several based in Kyrgyzstan that the U.S. Treasury Department on July 20 said have operated as intermediaries to provide foreign-made electronics and technologies to Russia.
At least six of these companies were featured in a recent investigation by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service into Kyrgyz and Kazakh companies that revealed how sanctioned Western electronics make their way to Russia via Central Asian firms.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said on July 20 that, in addition to curtailing Russia’s ability to obtain technology, the sanctions aim to reduce its revenue from mining, degrade its access to the international financial system, and starve it of technology produced by the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, particularly items needed in the aerospace and defense sectors.
The latest sanctions build on a wave of global actions imposed on Moscow.
“Since Russia launched its full scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States, working with our allies and partners, has taken unprecedented steps to impose costs on Russia and promote accountability for the individuals and entities who support its illegal war,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“We will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked the United States and the European Union, which on July 20 extended sanctions on Russia for another six months. He also thanked Canada for its recent moves to tighten sanctions against Russia.
“Hundreds of new sanctions objectives have been successfully implemented,” Zelenskiy said in a video posted on Twitter. “Russia and everyone in this world who dares to help terrorists must feel the ever-increasing sanctions pressure — whether they are individuals, companies, or countries.”
The individuals designated for sanctions include former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, a longtime confidant of President Vladimir Putin. Kudrin headed the government’s official watchdog, the Audit Chamber, until late last year when he joined Russian tech giant Yandex.
Kudrin joined Yandex during a restructuring as the Kremlin cracked down on independent news and reporting on the Ukraine war. Yandex’s search engine and main news portal were among the leading sources for Russian-language content.
Yandex ultimately decided to sell its main news and entertainment portals and undertook an attempted restructuring that would essentially split the company into a wholly Russian unit and an overlapping, but independent, foreign unit.
But that deal, which Kudrin has been intimately involved in negotiating, has been contingent on finding deep-pocketed Russian buyers for the Russian unit. Until recently, a group of Kremlin-connected oligarchs, and state investment bank VTB, were reported to be in the running to take control of the new unit.
But, according to reports this week in Meduza and The Bell, Yandex’s board has been wary of falling afoul of existing U.S. sanctions that had previously targeted some of the main contenders, and the board has been casting about for other options.
It’s unclear how Kudrin’s sanctioning would affect his role at Yandex or the company’s restructuring efforts.
A Yandex spokeswoman declined to comment on the Treasury announcement.
The six companies designated for sanctions by OFAC that were featured in the RFE/RL investigation are LLC RM Design and Development, Basis Trade Prosoft LLC, Region-Prof LLC, ZAO GTME Tekhnologii, OOO Radiotekhsnab (RTS), and Technologies Systems and Complexes Limited (TSC).
ZAO GTME Tekhnologii (GTME Tekhnologii) is a Kyrgyz-based entity established in June 2022.
It has made dozens of shipments of goods to Russia, including high-priority items such as tantalum capacitors and electronic integrated circuits, the RFE/RL investigation found. GTME Tekhnologii’s primary customer has been Russia-based TSC, a vendor of electronic and digital equipment.
OFAC said LLC RM Design and Development, established in March last year, has been a “prolific shipper” of electronics such as semiconductors and integrated circuits to Russia, including to firms that have supplied electronics to Russian-based defense companies.
Earlier on July 20, Kyrgyzstan denied helping Moscow circumvent sanctions imposed over the Ukraine invasion, but did admit to “the “possible involvement of private companies” and said it was investigating the matter.
The other individuals targeted for helping to supply munitions to Russia include Russian and North Korean national Yong Hyok Rim, who is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mutinous leader of the Wagner mercenary organization.
Also designated are two other private Russian military companies, including Okhrana, owned by Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom.
Sergei Korolev, first deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and Smolensk regional Governor Vasily Anokhin also were targeted, the State Department said.
The sanctions freeze any property in U.S. jurisdictions owned by the individuals and entities named. They also bar U.S. citizens from any dealings with the people and entities.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
NOTE: This article has been amended to clarify the circumstances surrounding Aleksei Kudrin’s departure from the Russian Audit Chamber and his joining Yandex.