The US has imposed sanctions on Russia's cyber and technology sectors and the latest round of sanctions has provided an insight into how Moscow's tech sector is organized – and who the main players are behind a maze of companies and individuals.
The announcement by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) aims to impose "severe costs" on Russia and its cyber warfare capabilities.
The sanctions target 21 entities and 13 people who are "instrumental" in Russia's "war machine."
The latest round of sanctions is aimed at Russia's largest chipmaker, which exports more than half of the country's microelectronics. The Russian government has also been designated as a malicious cyber actor by OFAC.
Russia's cyber capability is a key target. "Putin's cyber actors will be held accountable for destructive, disruptive, or otherwise destabilizing cyber activity targeting the United States and its allies and partners," the Treasury says.
One of the Kremlin's favorite companies, OOO Serniya Engineering, has been sanctioned. According to the US, the firm is at the "centre of a procurement network engaged in proliferation activities at the direction of Russian Intelligence Services."
The network is thought to span several countries in order to "obfuscate the Russian military and intelligence agency end-users that rely on critical western technology."
The company is linked to OOO Sertal, as well as OOO Robin Treid, Majory LLP, Photon Pro LLP, and Invention Bridge SL, all of which are described by the Treasury as "front companies utilised by Serniya to facilitate its procurement of key equipment" for the Russian government.
The companies are being investigated because they are "owned or controlled by, or having acted or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Government of Russia," according to the US.
Serniya and Sertal allegedly used a "network of individuals to structure transactions and deceive counterparties" to avoid sanctions, according to OFAC. The following people are among them:
Irina Viktorovna Nikolaeva,
Yevgeniya Aleksandrovna Podgornova,
Sergey Aleksandrovich Yershov,
Anton Alekseevich Krugovov,
Andrey Georgiyevich Zakharov,
Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Grinin.
Sergey Aleksandrovich Yershov and Viacheslav Yuryevich Dubrovinskiy have also been designated by OFAC as Serniya's leaders, officials, senior executive officers, or members of the board of directors.
Tamara Aleksandrovna Topchi of Russia's OOO Nauchno-Tekhnicheskii Tsentr Metrotek and OOO Pamkin Khaus of OOO Foton Pro have also been designated by OFAC.
Evgeniya Vladimirovna Bernova (Bernova) and Malberg Ltd., both based in Malta.
OFAC has sanctioned a number of tech companies in order to "further impede Russia’s access to western technology and the international financial system."
AO NII-Vektor, a software and communications technology company based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, computer hardware company T-Platforms, Joint Stock Company Mikron, the largest Russian manufacturer and exporter of microelectronics, and the Molecular Electronics Research Institute are among them.
In addition to the new sanctions, the US Treasury has decided to strengthen and expand its Russian sanctions authorities, determining that sanctions will be applied to the Russian economy's aerospace, marine, and electronics sectors.
OFAC claims it has targeted Russian technology companies in order to "prevent it from evading unprecedented multilateral sanctions and procure western technology," in retaliation for Russia's "unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine."
Sanctions will be imposed on "any individual or entity determined to operate or have operated in any of those sectors and provides an expanded ability to swiftly impose additional economic costs on Russia for its war of choice in Ukraine."
All of the designated persons' property and interests in property that are in the United States or in the possession of a US citizen are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.
Any entities that are owned 50 percent or more, directly or indirectly, individually or in a group, are also blocked. All transactions with US persons or within the US are blocked unless OFAC issues a specific license.
"In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action," OFAC warned.
According to the US, the new sanctions are aimed at limiting Russia's access to resources and sectors of the economy that are necessary for "supplying and financing the continued invasion of Ukraine."
"Russia not only continues to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine with its unprovoked aggression but also has escalated its attacks striking civilians and population center," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
"We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle, until this senseless war of choice is over," she added.
By fLEXI tEAM