By Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration halted the export of a wide range of consumer goods to Russia on Friday and added 71 companies to a trade blacklist, as the Group of Seven wealthy nations announced new sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.
The new curbs targeted items that can be used to help Russia’s military, including items used in daily life like clothes dryers, snow plows and milking machines, which the U.S. thinks could be repurposed to support Moscow’s war machine.
“You can’t even ship contact lenses or sunglasses now,” said Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former U.S. Commerce department official, as he reviewed the new rules. Wolf said “it would be simpler to describe the items that are not controlled for export to Russia.”
The blacklisted companies include 69 Russian entities, one from Armenia and one from Kyrgyzstan. They were added to the Commerce Department’s “Entity List,” primarily for supporting Russia’s military and defense sectors, making it even harder to ship any goods to them.
The targeted companies include aircraft repair and parts production plants, gunpowder, tractor and automobile factories, shipyards and engineering centers in Russia.
The actions are part of the latest round of unprecedented sanctions and export controls by the United States and a coalition of 37 other countries in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, designed to degrade Moscow’s industrial base and its ability to sustain the war.
“We will continue to impose costs on the Kremlin for continuing this war both by further restricting their access to additional items, as well as through aggressive enforcement,” Under Secretary of Commerce Alan Estevez said in a statement that summarized the additional sanctions.
The new rules build on controls already in place on Russia’s industrial, commercial, chemical and biological sectors, adding a variety of electronics, instruments and carbon fibers, as well as chemicals including fentanyl and its precursors.
They also expand the list of foreign-produced items that require a license for Russia, Belarus and Iran to further limit Tehran’s ability to provide Russia with drones.
Doug Jacobson, a Washington trade lawyer, noted that some newly restricted items may be controversial. “Due to the broad scope of the new controls, licenses are now required to export items such as hearing aids, false teeth, and artificial joints,” he said.
The new moves came as the United States and the rest of the “Group of Seven” major economies agreed to stiffen sanctions against Russia as they meet in Japan.
Matthew Axelrod, the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, said the U.S. is making it a priority to enforce controls on items that contribute to Russian weapons systems such as missiles and drones.
When a company is found to have engaged in evasion, Axelrod said in the statement, “we will use all of our authorities…to shut it down.”
Last week, a Greek man was arrested in Paris and charged by New York prosecutors with smuggling U.S.-origin military technologies to Russia while he was operating as a defense contractor for NATO.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Susan Heavey; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Kirsten Donovan, Elaine Hardcastle)