The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced Wednesday that it will expand its export restrictions on Russia in response to a March 2, 2021, determination by the Secretary of State that the country’s government had used chemical or biological weapons against its own people.
The department said the actions violated international law.
“By deploying illegal nerve agents against dissidents, both inside and outside its borders, the Russian government has acted in flagrant violation of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention and has directly put its own citizens and those of other countries at mortal risk. The Department of Commerce is committed to preventing Russia from accessing sensitive U.S. technologies that might be diverted to its malign chemical weapons activities.”
Effective March 18, 2021, the BIS will review license applications for exports and re-exports of items controlled for national security reasons (NS items) destined for Russia, with the presumption of denial. Also effective that date, BIS will suspend License Exceptions Servicing and Replacement Parts and Equipment, Technology Software Unrestricted, and Additional Permissive Re-exports for NS items destined for Russia.
The DOC said some categories of exports and re-exports will be permitted: NS items made under License Exceptions Temporary Imports, Exports, Reexports, and Transfers (TMP); Governments, International Organizations, International Inspections under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the International Space Station (GOV); Baggage (BAG); Aircraft, Vessels and Spacecraft (AVS), and Encryption Commodities, Software, and Technology (ENC).
The partial waiver will also apply to licensing of items necessary for the safety of flight of civil fixed-wing passenger aviation; deemed exports and reexports to Russian nationals; items destined for wholly-owned U.S. subsidiaries and other foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies that are located in Russia; and items in support of government space cooperation.
According to the DOC, the sanctions stem from Russia’s use of nerve agents against its own people. On March 4, the Russian Government deployed Novichok, a nerve agent, against former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal while they were in the United Kingdom. In response, the U.S. government imposed two sets of sanctions against Russian in accordance with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991. The first set of sanctions was issued in August 2018, while the second was issued in August 2019.
On August 20, 2020, the Russian government used the same nerve agent against Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, warranting another determination by the Secretary of State for additional sanctions under the CBW Act.