Limassol shipping companies sanctioned by US

Companies registered in Cyprus were hit with sanctions on Friday, as the US, UK and Canada sought to toughen the crackdown on Russia, two years after it invaded Ukraine.

One woman with both Russian and Cypriot passports Yulia Guryeva-Motlokhov was also sanctioned by the UK.

The sanctions primarily target Russia’s shipping industry and military complex, as well as financial fixers enabling sanctions evasion.

The latest round of sanctions is described as the “largest number of sanctions imposed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine” which follows the death of Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Cypriot shipping companies

Three shipping companies based in Limassol were sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

They are Azoria Shipping Company Limited, Elixon Shipping Company Limited and Glorina Shipping Company Limited, which are active in sea and coastal freight water transport.

OFAC specified the three companies are registered at Karaiskaki, 13, Limassol, which is the address for the Chrysses Demetriades law firm.

Director for all three companies is Vladimir Oskirko. The secretary is Cyproservus Co. Limited.

Reports link Oskirko to Russia’s leading tanker group Sovcomflot, which was hit by EU, UK and US sanctions.

‘Supporting Russia’s war’

In statements made from New York, Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced sanctions against 10 individuals and 153 entities, which include Cyprus-registered companies.

“The individuals listed include an aide to Russia’s President [Vladimir] Putin as well as senior officials of private and state-owned companies registered in Russia and Cyprus.”

The sanctions come after coordination with the UK and US.

“These sanctions target individuals and entities who support the Russian military through finance, logistics and sanctions evasion,” Joly underlined.

Canada’s foreign ministry was not immediately able to specify the names of the Cypriot companies.

“These individuals and the firms they lead represent nodes of direct and indirect support to the Russian government’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Most of the sanctioned entities are part of the Russian military-industrial complex, providing research and development, production, repairs, and other goods and services to Russia’s Ministry of Defence.”

Cypriot passport holder

A day earlier, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron announced the UK had sanctioned more than 50 new individuals and businesses.

The list includes Yulia Guryeva-Motlokhov, who has both Russian and Cypriot nationalities.

Guryeva-Motlokhov was sanctioned due to her association with persons “involved in obtaining a benefit from the government of Russia.”

This concerns her father Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev and her brother Andrey Andreevich Guryev, both of whom have been sanctioned by the US and UK.

“We are preparing to bolster our existing powers to target malign Russian shipping activity and individual ‘shadow fleet’ vessels used by Russia to soften the blow of oil-related sanctions imposed by the UK alongside G7 partners,” Cameron underlined.

Hundreds of targets

In total, the US Department of State designated three Russian government officials in connection with Navalny’s death, and together with OFAC, over 500 targets were sanctioned.

The aim is “to impose additional costs for Russia’s repression, human rights abuses, and aggression against Ukraine.” The Department of Commerce was also adding more than 90 companies to the sanctioned entity list, OFAC underlined.

Earlier this week, Cyprus’ foreign minister said the government supports the 13th package of sanctions against Russia.

Ongoing investigations

A series of sanctions and international investigations in the past year revealed Cypriot individuals and companies were “financial fixers” for Russian oligarchs.

US experts including from the FBI are collaborating with Cyprus’ authorities on the matter, though the attorney general told MPs sanctions evaders may be ‘difficult to convict’.

Amid complaints that investigations are taking too long, Cypriot MEPs said the country been dragged through the mud during a European Parliament plenary session.

This followed a slew of revelations by the Cyprus Confidential reports, linking the island to aiding money laundering and sanctions evasions.

Published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), they reported staff at PwC Cyprus hurried to restructure companies belonging to Russian oligarchs as the prospect of sanctions loomed.

According to the finance ministry, Cyprus should have a national financial sanctions implementation unit by the end of the year, bringing the country up to speed with best practices in combating illicit finance.