The State of Financial Crime 2022 - Read our global compliance survey

OFAC Targets Belarus and Russia With Magnitsky Sanctions

Regulators & Key Institutions Knowledge & Training

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued a raft of new sanctions under its Magnitsky human rights sanctions program. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his wife have been sanctioned for “gross violations of human rights and significant corruption”.

An additional 11 Russian military leaders have also been sanctioned for human rights abuses committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These include Victor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard of Russia, who was included for his alleged role in punishing Russian civilians protesting against the war with Ukraine. 

“Today’s designations demonstrate the United States will continue to impose concrete and significant consequences for those who engage in corruption or are connected to gross violations of human rights,” said OFAC Director, Andrea Gacki. 

“We condemn Russia’s attacks on humanitarian corridors in Ukraine and call on Russia to cease its unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.”

Lukashenko, who was elected in 1994, has long been seen as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He allowed Russian troops to enter his country for “military exercises” before crossing the border and attacking neighboring Ukraine. 

While Lukashenko has said that Belarusian troops could join the invasion “if it becomes necessary”, there is little support in his country for joining the Russian attack. 

The Treasury says Lukashenko as “head of a corrupt government in Belarus whose patronage network benefits his inner circle and regime” is sanctioned for being responsible for, or engaging in, public corruption related to Belarus. Lukashenko was previously sanctioned pursuant to EO 13405 in 2006 by President George W Bush.

His wife Halina has also been sanctioned pursuant to EO 13405. All property and assets owned by the couple are now blocked in the US. Americans are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. Alongside their two sons, who were sanctioned in 2021 and 2006, they are barred from entering the United States.

Global Magnitsky Act Sanctions

Moscow judge Natalia Mushnikova has also been sanctioned in this raft of measures pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act for participating in efforts to conceal legal liability for the detention, abuse or death of Sergei Magnitsky.

The Russian whistleblower died in 2009, and in 2012 Congress passed the Act in his name, authorizing sanctions against anyone involved in his death, abuse or detention; and anyone connected to gross violations of human rights in Russia.

OFAC says Mushnikova rejected an appeal from Magnitsky’s mother for an independent autopsy on her son, thereby contributing to the concealment and obstruction of the release of evidence related to his mistreatment during his detention and ultimate cause of death.

The latest sanctions also saw measures imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act for gross violations of human rights in Russia perpetrated against human rights defender Oyub Titiev. Titiev was the leader of the Chechen branch of human and civil rights organization Memorial, and was closely involved in investigations into alleged executions of 27 people by Chechnyan security forces in 2017.

Titiev was detained on false charges and spent a year and a half in detention before being paroled in 2019.

The Kurchaloi District of the Chechen Republic Branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (Kurchaloi OMVD) – whose officers arrested and charged Titiev – and Dzhabrail Alkhazurovich Akhmatov – prosecutor of the Kurchaloi District of Chechnya – have been sanctioned for acting as agents of the government of Chechnya in a matter relating to extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

Nurid Denilbekovich Salamov – the Kurchaloi OMVD investigator who opened the case against Titiev and headed the investigative group – and Khusein Merlovich Khutaev – the Kurchaloi OMVD officer who allegedly spotted drugs in Titiev’s car, providing the basis for Titiev’s arrest – were also sanctioned under the Act.

“Tit for tat” sanctions escalation

These new measures, while designated under the human rights regime, are invariably tied with wider sanctions imposed due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The latest “tit for tat” in that conflict has seen Russia sanction President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, among others, including former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and President Biden’s son Hunter.

Uncover more about the latest global sanctions.

Originally published March 18, 2022, updated March 18, 2022

Disclaimer: This is for general information only. The information presented does not constitute legal advice. ComplyAdvantage accepts no responsibility for any information contained herein and disclaims and excludes any liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this information.

Copyright © 2022 IVXS UK Limited (trading as ComplyAdvantage).