On June 8, 2023, The Republic of Belarus (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (“Regulations”) were laid before parliament. The Regulations significantly expand the UK’s package of sanctions targeting Belarus in response to the continued facilitation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by the Belarusian regime. The new measures expand the criteria pursuant to which persons can be designated under the regime, target Belarusian imports used to fund the Lukashenko regime, crack down on Russia’s efforts to circumvent sanctions, and seek to limit the spread of propaganda by Belarusian organisations in the UK. The new measures come into effect on June 9, 2023.
In a press release announcing the measures, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stated that the Belarusian regime has facilitated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by permitting the use of its territory and airspace by Russia to conduct missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, as well as providing significant training and logistical support to Russian forces. Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, also underscored that the UK’s “support for Ukraine will remain resolute for as long as it takes and the UK will not hesitate to introduce further measures against those who prop up Putin’s war.”
Expansion of Designation Criteria Under the Belarus Sanctions Regime
The Regulations expand the designation criteria under the Belarus sanctions regime to permit the UK government to sanction a broader range of people deemed to prop up the Lukashenko regime, including close family members of already designated individuals. In particular, the designation criteria are widened to include within the scope of the ground of:
- obtaining a benefit from, or supporting, the Government of Belarus through carrying on a relevant business activity, persons holding the right (directly or indirectly) to nominate at least one executive or non-executive director, trustee, or equivalent of a Government of Belarus-affiliated entity or an entity carrying on a business of economic or strategic significance to the Government of Belarus;
- conduct destabilising Ukraine or threatening its territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence as well as of obtaining a benefit from, or supporting, the Government of Belarus through carrying on a relevant business activity, a wide range of individuals, including directors and managers of Government of Belarus-affiliated entities, aides and advisors to the President of Belarus, members of the Security Council of Belarus, (deputy) ministers of any Ministry of Belarus, (deputy) heads of any public body, service, or committee subordinate to the President or Council of Ministers, of Belarus, and senior members of the armed forces, law enforcement, security and intelligence services of Belarus; and
- being associated with an involved person, persons who obtain a financial, or other material benefit, from that person or are immediate family members (i.e., spouses, civil partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, nephews/nieces, and aunts/uncles) of that person.
Targeting the Lukashenko Regime’s Sources of Funding
Building on measures introduced in July 2022 to ban the import and export of goods worth in the region of £60,000,000 from Belarus, the UK is banning the import of gold, cement, wood and rubber from Belarus, which act as sources of revenue for the Lukashenko regime. Export bans on banknotes and machinery, as well as goods and technology capable of use in the production of chemical and biological weapons, also will be introduced.
The Regulations extend the existing ban on the import, acquisition, supply and delivery of items originating in, or consigned from, Belarus to:
- cement falling within commodity codes 2523 (cement, including cement clinkers, whether or not coloured) and 6810 (articles of cement, concrete or artificial stone, whether or not reinforced);
- gold falling within commodity codes 7108 (gold (including gold plated with platinum), unwrought or in semi-manufactured forms, or in powder form), 71129 10000 (waste and scrap of gold, including metal clad with gold but excluding sweepings containing other precious metals), and ex 7118 9000 (gold coin), which has been exported from Belarus on or after June 9, 2023;
- gold jewellery falling within commodity codes ex 7113 (articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of gold, containing gold, or of metal clad with gold) and ex 7114 (articles of goldsmiths’ or silversmiths’ wares and parts thereof, of gold, containing gold or of metal clad with gold), which has been exported from Belarus on or after June 9, 2023;
- rubber falling within commodity code 4011 (new pneumatic tyres, of rubber); and
- wood falling within commodity code 44 (wood and articles of wood, wood charcoal).
The provision of technical assistance, financial services, funds, or brokering services in relation to these items also is prohibited.
The Regulations extend the prohibitions on exporting, supplying, delivering, making available, and transferring goods and technology to banknotes denominated in Sterling or any official currency of the EU, chemical and biological weapons-related items (as defined in Part 2 of Schedule 2H), and machinery-related items. For the purpose of these restrictions, machinery-related items are defined broadly in Part 2 of Schedule 2I and include certain items falling within Chapters 84 (Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof) and 85 (Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles) of the UK Integrated Online Tariff. The provision of technical assistance, financial services or funds in relation to chemical and biological weapons-related items and machinery-related items also is prohibited.
Crack Down on Sanctions Circumvention
Given the close links between the economies of Belarus and Russia, the Regulations apply measures to Belarus that already have been applied under the UK’s Russia sanctions regime to close loopholes and address sanctions circumvention. Among the measures that have been introduced is a further limitation on the funds that Belarus is able to raise through access to UK financial markets and preventing the import into the UK of goods such as gold, which may have originated in Russia.
Dealing with Transferable Securities or Money-Market Instruments
The prohibition on dealing with transferable securities or money-market instruments with a maturity exceeding 90 days is extended to securities or instruments issued by entities acting on behalf, or at the direction of, Belarus, a Belarusian authority, or entities wholly-owned by Belarus or a Belarusian authority.
Importation of Goods of Russian Origin
The ban on importation into the UK also extends to relevant processed gold; namely, gold that has been processed in a country other than Belarus, the UK, or the Isle of Man and incorporates gold that, on or after July 21, 2022, originated in Belarus and had been exported from Belarus. The provision of technical assistance, financial services, funds, or brokering services in relation to these items also is prohibited.
Restrictions on Designated Belarusian Media Companies
The Regulations also introduce measures that enable the UK government to prevent designated Belarusian media companies from spreading propaganda in the UK by requiring:
- social media service providers to take reasonable steps to prevent users in the UK accessing content generated, uploaded, or shared by designated persons;
- internet access service providers to take reasonable steps to prevent users in the UK accessing an internet service provided by designated persons; and
- application store providers to take reasonable steps to prevent users in the UK downloading or accessing an internet service provided by a designated person.
Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence and can be enforced by OFCOM, the UK communications regulator. These measures replicate those measures previously taken by the UK in relation to designated Russian media organisations.
Over recent months, the UK and its international partners repeatedly have articulated their intention to close loopholes and clamp down on sanctions evasion to ensure the effectiveness of the package of sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The Regulations represent a significant expansion of the UK’s sanctions regime targeting Belarus and underscore the UK’s commitment to undermining attempts to build global resilience to Western sanctions. For more information on how these developments could impact your organisation, contact the author of this post, Alexandra Melia, in Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions team in London.