President Obama Expands U.S. Sanctions Against Russia
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomes the expansion of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine. The Executive Order issued today for the first time targets a Russian bank that has allegedly provided material support to Russian officials involved in the Ukraine operation. The order designated Bank Rossiya, based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, blocking its assets and property in the United States and thus its access to U.S. financial markets.
The order allows the administration to impose sanctions not only on individuals involved in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but also on key sectors of the Russian economy, such as financial services and arms. Human Rights First urges the U.S. government not to limit its investigations to the Russian actions in Ukraine, but to also investigate whether these individuals and entities have also engaged in sanctionable behavior in Syria.
“The Russian government has been and remains the largest arms supplier to Syria’s Bashir al-Assad, and its weapons have been used in mass atrocities against Syrian civilians,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “We urge the Obama Administration to conduct a thorough investigation of all the actors in these industries and any actions that could be the subject of U.S. sanctions in connection with Ukraine and Syria.”
The U.S. Government should use this moment to investigate how much overlap exists between the senior Russian officials involved in the aggression in Ukraine, those providing material support for the Syrian regime, the Russian arms industry, and their financiers. This investigation should establish whether individuals, companies or entities have been supplying arms, and it should include probes of Rosoboronexport, the Russian Interior ministry, and other majors players in the Russian arms industry. Where there is evidence that such entities are facilitating mass atrocities or other grave human rights abuses in Ukraine or Syria, they should face sanctions.
In addition, the investigation should extend to all financial institutions that facilitate the operations of the arms industry in conflict zones. Wars require logistics: supplies of weapons and fuel, financial services to handle these transactions, shipping, insurance and more. Human Rights First supports a renewed effort by all countries to disrupt the supply chains that enable mass atrocities. Under the existing U.S. sanctions regimes – for Ukraine and Syria– the finance sector can, under certain circumstances, be designated. The U.S. Government should investigate whether there is evidence of such sanctionable behavior.