US sanctions 5 Turkish firms in broad Russia action on over 150 targets

By Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on five Turkish companies and a Turkish national, accusing them of helping Russia evade sanctions and supporting Moscow in its war against Ukraine.

The designations, first reported by Reuters, target shipping and trade companies accused of helping repair sanctioned vessels tied to Russia’s defense ministry and helping the transfer of “dual-use goods.” It is part of a bigger package of measures hitting Russia with sanctions on more than 150 targets, including the country’s largest carmaker.

The action was taken at a delicate moment for U.S.-Turkey relations, with Washington hoping Ankara will ratify NATO membership for Sweden when the Turkish parliament reconvenes in early October.

The United States and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbor Turkey and other trading hubs have remained open, prompting Washington to issue repeated warnings about the export of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort.

Multiple senior U.S. officials, including Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, have traveled to Turkey since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a pressure campaign to prevent any Turkish companies from helping Russia circumvent U.S. curbs.

“For the past 18 months, we’ve shared our concerns with the Turkish government and private sector and informed them of the significant risks of doing business with those we’ve sanctioned who are tied to Russia’s war,” a senior U.S. Treasury official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“These designations reflect our ongoing commitment to target individuals and entities who provide material support to sanctioned entities,” the official added.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish government.

SANCTIONS EVASION

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on Margiana Insaat Dis Ticaret and Demirci Bilisim Ticaret Sanayi, saying the Turkey-based companies were among those that Russia relied on for importing “much-needed dual-use goods to enable its unprovoked war of aggression on Ukraine.”

It said the former had made hundreds of shipments to sanctioned Russian entities that are part of the supply chain for producing military drones used in the Ukraine war, while the latter has sent sensors and measuring tools into Russia.

Reuters could not immediately reach the companies for comment.

The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Denkar Ship Construction for providing ship repair services to previously designated vessels of a company connected to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Denkar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The State Department also targeted Turkey-based shipyard agency ID Ship Agency and its owner Ilker Dogruyol as well as CTL Limited, which the State Department said was an intermediary that ships electronic components of U.S. and European origin to companies in Russia.

The firms and Dogruyol had no immediate comment.

The broader sanctions package targets Russia’s industrial base, maritime sector and technology suppliers, as well as facilities producing and repairing Russian weapons systems.

Among those targeted was Russia’s largest carmaker, Avtovaz, while GAZ Group – another automotive manufacturer – was hit with a new round of sanctions. Avtovaz declined to comment.

The U.S. also imposed sanctions on a major local copper producer – Russian Copper Company. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Finland-based network that specializes in shipping foreign electronics to Russia-based end-users was also targeted in the action as Washington cracks down on sanctions evasion. The Treasury slapped sanctions on Finland-based logistics firms Siberica Oy and Luminor Oy, accusing them of sending a wide variety of electronics into Russia.

Russia’s construction sector, revenue streams from extractive industries and Russia-based banks, wealth management consulting, auditing and investment firms were also hit in the action.

Russia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NATO MEMBERSHIP

Turkey, a member of NATO, has sought to maintain good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv during the war. It opposes the sanctions on principle, but has said they will not be circumvented in Turkey and that no shipped products can be used by Russia’s military.

Ties with the U.S. have been strained over Turkey’s reluctance to support the bids of Sweden and Finland to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine. While Finnish membership was sealed in April, Sweden’s application remains held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Washington is not worried that the sanctions imposed on Thursday could derail Sweden’s bid to join NATO, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.

“We continue to work with them to communicate that NATO accession is important for Sweden, it should happen as soon as possible, and we take President Erdogan’s assurances that it will happen at great value,” Miller said.

“We don’t see these as any way connected, and we don’t see that in any way these sanctions should have any impact at all on that accession.”

The United States has repeatedly said Sweden has done enough to alleviate Turkey’s concerns and that its membership should be approved now.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in London and Gleb Stolyarov and Anastasiya Lyrchikova; Editing by Don Durfee, Alexandra Hudson, William Maclean, Paul Simao and Leslie Adler)

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