North Korea has been hit with new US sanctions over its alleged weapons proliferation activities.
The US sanctions target the North Korean army’s Strategic Rocket Force, as well as two banks and three shipping companies allegedly involved in arms trade.
The sanctions bar American citizens or companies from engaging in any transactions with the companies.
North Korea already faces sanctions from several other countries and the UN.
The Strategic Rocket Force is accused of performing several missile tests last year, while the shipping companies – linked to other already-sanctioned firms – are accused of transporting illicit arms.
The US Treasury also blacklisted officials of previously sanctioned North Korean Banks.
The sanctions freeze any US assets the blacklisted companies and individuals have. It is not clear how much, if any, they have in the United States.
Five of the individuals added to the blacklist – two in Syria and two in Vietnam – are representatives of the Tanchon Commercial Bank, which is already on the US sanctions list. It performs financial activities for the Korea Mining and Development Trading Corporation, which is responsible for North Korea arms exports.
North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank also had one representative, based in Russia, added to the sanctions list. The company itself was also already covered by US sanctions.
North Korea has attacked new US sanctions in response to a major cyber-attack against Sony Pictures.
The US placed sanctions on three North Korean organizations and 10 individuals after the FBI blamed Pyongyang for the cyber-attack.
North Korea praised the attack on Sony but denied any involvement in it.
It came as Sony Pictures was about to release The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Sony initially cancelled plans to screen The Interview, before deciding to release it online and at a limited number of cinemas.
The sanctions imposed on January 2 are believed to be the first time the US has moved to punish any country for cyber-attacks on an American company.
Announcing them, White House officials told reporters the move was in response to the Sony hack, but the targets of the sanctions were not directly involved.
In response, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency on January 4 quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying: “The policy persistently pursued by the US to stifle the DPRK [North Korea], groundlessly stirring up bad blood towards it, would only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country.
“The persistent and unilateral action taken by the White House to slap <<sanctions>> against the DPRK patently proves that it is still not away from inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward the DPRK.”
US sanctions were already in place over North Korea’s nuclear program but analysts said the new sanctions were designed to further isolate the country’s defense industry.
Russia has imposed a “full embargo” on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries, in response to sanctions over Ukraine.
PM Dmitry Medvedev said it would include fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and dairy imports.
Australia, Canada and Norway are also affected.
Russia is also banning Ukrainian airlines from transit across its territory, he said in televised comments to the government.
Furthermore, the Russian government is considering banning transit flights for EU and US airlines in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine, he said.
Barring airlines from Siberian airspace would significantly increase costs and flying time for many jets bound for Asian destinations.
EU food exports to Russia last year were worth 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion) while US food exports to Russia were worth 972 million euros ($1.3 billion).
Russia has imposed a full embargo on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries
Russia was the EU’s second-biggest market for food exports (10% of total), after the US (13%).
The European Commission said the Russian embargo was “clearly politically motivated”. It is considering how to respond.
Western governments accuse the Kremlin of fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine by supplying weapons and expertise to the pro-Russian separatists.
Last month the EU and the US tightened sanctions on Russia, with Brussels applying restrictions to key sectors of the economy as well as individuals. The first round of sanctions came after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March.
The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 last month, killing 298 people, exacerbated tensions between the West and Russia, as the separatists in eastern Ukraine were widely blamed. It is strongly suspected that a Russian missile system was used to down the jet.
Dmitry Medvedev ordered the agriculture ministry and producer organizations to find ways to boost Russian farm output in order to prevent price rises for consumers.
Western exports of baby food to Russia are not on the sanctions list. Western pet food is not banned either, and Russians are not barred from buying Western food abroad, within customs limits.
The Russian authorities say they are confident the supermarket shelves will not be left empty – they are searching for alternative suppliers in South America, Turkey and China.
It is estimated that in big cities, like Moscow, more than 60% of food in the shops is imported.
Researchers at Capital Economics say “far and away the most vulnerable to the Russian sanctions is Lithuania, where exports of the banned products to Russia are equivalent to 2.5% of GDP”.
The major food exporters to Russia last year were, in order of importance: Belarus ($2.7 billion), Brazil ($2.4 billion), Ukraine ($1.9 billion), Germany ($1.8 billion) and Turkey ($1.68 billion), Reuters news agency reports.
In 2013 the biggest food sector in EU exports to Russia was cheese and curd, followed by pork, then alcoholic drinks, then apples, pears and quinces.
At the end of July Russia banned all fruit and vegetable imports from Poland, which has been among the most vocal critics of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
In January Russia also imposed a ban on imports of pigs and pork from the EU. The European Commission says that move was “disproportionate”, closing a market worth 25% of total EU pig and pork exports.
President Barack Obama has announced new economic sanctions against Russia over Ukrainian crisis, saying they will make Russia’s “weak economy even weaker”.
Barack Obama said the coordinated actions of the US and European Union would “have an even bigger bite” on Russia’s economy.
The new restrictions include banning Americans or people in the US from banking with three Russian banks.
The aim is to increase the cost to Russia of its continued support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies charges by the EU and US that it is supplying heavy weapons to the rebels.
Speaking at the White House, Barack Obama said the US was widening its sanctions to target the key sectors of the Russian economy – energy, arms, and finance.
President Barack Obama has announced new economic sanctions against Russia over Ukrainian crisis
“If Russia continues on this current path, the costs on Russia will continue to grow,” the president said.
The US Treasury said the banks being targeting in this round of sanctions were VTB, the Bank of Moscow, and the Russian Agriculture Bank (Rosselkhozbank).
Earlier, the EU also adopted new economic sanctions against Russia, targeting the oil sector, defense equipment and sensitive technologies.
Full details of the new EU sanctions are expected on Wednesday, when the EU is also set to name more Russian officials facing asset freezes and travel bans in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had been reluctant to step up sanctions because of Germany’s trade links with Russia, said the latest measures were “unavoidable”.
Calls for the EU to act have been fuelled by the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines jet were killed, many of them Dutch citizens.
An international team has again failed to access the crash site, amid heavy fighting between government forces and rebels there.
Western governments believe the pro-Russian separatists shot the plane down on July 17 with a Russian missile, believing it to be a Ukrainian military flight. The rebels and Moscow deny that, instead blaming the Ukrainian military.
Last weekend, the EU subjected a further 15 Russian individuals and 18 entities to asset freezes and visa bans for their alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
The list of 87 targets of EU sanctions now includes the heads of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and foreign intelligence, the president of Chechnya, as well as two Crimean energy companies.
Russia has warned that new EU sanctions against it over the Ukraine crisis will jeopardize security co-operation against terror.
The Russian foreign ministry said the EU would bear the blame for the move which sees 15 officials and 18 entities subject to asset freezes and visa bans.
The EU and the US accuse Russia of backing Ukraine’s rebels. Moscow denies this.
Meanwhile, the last remains of the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines jet flew out of eastern Ukraine for the Netherlands.
The departure of the aircraft from the city of Kharkiv with 38 coffins brings the total number of bodies sent for identification to 227.
Russia has warned that new EU sanctions against it over the Ukraine crisis will jeopardize security co-operation against terror
The Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on July 17, killing all 298 people – including 193 Dutch nationals – on board.
Pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have been accused of downing the plane by a missile.
Russia has frequently denied sending heavy weapons into Ukraine. Moscow has suggested the plane could have been shot down by the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has denied the charge.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.
In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said the new EU sanctions showed that the 28-member bloc was taking “a complete turn away from joint work with Russia on international and regional security, including the fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime and other challenges”.
“We believe these decisions will be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists.”
In a separate statement, the Russian ministry also accused the US of “an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia”.
The EU sanctions were agreed after lengthy negotiations in Brussels on Friday.
The senior Russian officials targeted include Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov, foreign intelligence head Mikhail Fradkov and Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian security council.
The leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, is also on the list.
The US has announced it is increasing sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, targeting major banks, defense and energy companies.
Among those on the list are Gazprombank and Rosneft as well as senior officials in Russia and the self-declared rebel entities in eastern Ukraine.
The US has steadily escalated its sanctions against Russia over what it says is Moscow’s backing of the rebels – a claim denied by the Kremlin.
The EU also agreed to tighten its own sanctions against Russia.
The leaders of the 28-member bloc are currently holding talks in Brussels.
The new round of US sanctions announced by the US treasury department significantly expands previous penalties by Washington, which were limited to individuals in Russia and Ukraine and a number of companies.
President Barack Obama said the US sanctions were imposed because Russia had failed to fulfill it promises to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine
This time they include the giant oil firm Rosneft and two major banks – Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank.
The weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov Concern is also on the list.
Two self-proclaimed rebel entities in eastern Ukraine – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic – are also targeted.
Speaking in Washington, President Barack Obama said the sanctions were imposed because Russia had failed to fulfill it promises to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
Barack Obama also stressed America’s support for Ukraine, saying that “Ukrainians deserve to forge their own destiny”.
The US penalties stop short of a complete disengagement with sectors of the Russian economy – a step that US officials said was being held in reserve in case Moscow launches a military invasion of Ukraine.
Russia denounced the US move. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia would take measures “that will be felt quite painfully in Washington”, Interfax news agency reports.
In Ukraine itself, heavy fighting continued in the east.
Ukrainian officials said 11 soldiers died in the space of 24 hours. The number of casualties among pro-Russian separatists was not immediately known.
BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations.
As part of the deal, France’s largest bank will plead guilty to two criminal charges of breaking US sanctions against trade with Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
The bank will also be prevented from clearing certain transactions in US dollars for one year from the start of 2015.
The settlement is the largest for such a case in US history.
“Between 2004 and 2012, BNP engaged in a complex and pervasive scheme to illegally move billions through the US financial system,” said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a press conference.
In doing so, BNP Paribas “deliberately and repeatedly violated longstanding US sanctions”, he said.
Eric Holder added that he hoped the settlement would serve as a warning to other companies that did business with the US that “illegal conduct will simply not be tolerated”.
BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations (photo Euronews)
As part of its agreement with US authorities, BNP agreed to fire and not re-hire 13 individuals who were associated with the sanctions violations.
BNP said as a result of the fine it would take an “exceptional charge” of 5.8 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in the second quarter of this year.
It said this was on top of the $1.1 billion it had already set aside to cover the cost of the US penalties.
However it said it expected “no impact on its operational or business capabilities”, and said it would post “solid results” for the second quarter.
BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said resolving the issue was “an important step forward” for the bank.
“We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement,” he added.
In a conference call on Tuesday morning, Jean-Laurent Bonnafe explained that during the year in which the bank was banned from dollar clearing – converting payments from foreign currencies into US dollars – it would engage a third party to carry out the transactions.
Jean-Laurent Bonnafe added that as part of the settlement BNP Paribas would be able to keep its license to operate in the US.
The Swiss financial regulator, FINMA, also announced that it had closed its investigation into BNP Paribas operations in the country, following the US authorities’ decision.
FINMA said in a statement that BNP Paribas had “persistently and seriously violated its duty to identify, limit and monitor the inherent risks” relating to foreign transactions.
Shares in BNP Paribas rose more than 3% in morning trading, following assurances that the bank could weather the $9 billion fine.
France has been pressing the US over the size of the fine, which almost equals BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about 8.2 billion euros ($11.2 billion).
French banking giant BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules, reports suggest.
The bank will also, unusually, admit guilt, Financial Times and The New York Times reported.
According to the Wall Street Journal, BNP plans to slash its dividends and issue billions of euros of bonds to pay the fine.
The bank is accused of breaking sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
This is alleged to have taken place between 2002 and 2009.
BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules
The reported size of the fine could almost wipe out BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about $11.2 billion.
In April, BNP Paribas said it had set aside $1.1 billion to cover the cost of US penalties, but warned that the “amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision”.
Earlier this month, one of the EU’s top officials intervened in the controversy.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said any penalty on the giant French bank must be “fair and objective”. Reports at the time suggested the fine would be in the region of $10 billion.
France’s President Francois Hollande has raised the matter with President Barack Obama, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently warned that such a fine could hurt EU-US trade treaty talks.
As part of the deal with US authorities, BNP may be suspended from converting foreign currencies into dollars, reports suggest, which would hit its ability to operate in international wholesale banking markets.
US authorities are keen to make an announcement on the settlement on Monday afternoon.
New US sanctions have been imposed on seven Russian individuals and 17 companies it says are linked to President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle”.
The White House said the move was a response to “Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine”.
Those targeted include Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft, and Sergei Chemezov of the hi-tech firm Rostec.
The announcement comes after the mayor of Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine, was shot and critically wounded.
Hennadiy Kernes was recovering after an operation to repair damage to the chest and abdomen, but his life remained in danger, his office said.
Monday also saw pro-Russian separatists, whom Western nations accuse Moscow of supporting, seize a local government building in Kostyantynivka, a town in the eastern Donetsk region.
New US sanctions have been imposed on seven Russian individuals and 17 companies
In Donetsk itself, pro-Russian activists armed with clubs and chains attacked a pro-unity rally, correspondents and eyewitnesses said. A number of people were injured in the clash.
Separatists were also continuing to detain about 40 people in the town of Sloviansk, including journalists, pro-Kiev activists and seven military observers linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as well as three members of Ukraine’s security service, officials in Kiev said.
At a special meeting of the OSCE’s permanent council in Vienna, Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin said Moscow was taking “steps” to secure the observers’ release. But the area around Sloviansk was very tense and it had been “extremely irresponsible” to send them there, he added.
The US and EU first imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of senior Russian officials and companies after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last month.
On Thursday, the White House said it was adding to its sanction list “in response to Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine’s democracy and threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity”.
It accused Russia of “doing nothing to meet the commitments it made” at a meeting with Ukraine, the US and EU in Geneva on April 17, which it said had included refraining from violence or provocative acts.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow’s response would be “painful for Washington”.
He told the Interfax news agency that the Kremlin was “disgusted” by the sanctions, which he said showed the White House had “completely lost touch with reality”.
Most of the 17 companies targeted are linked to Arkady and Boris Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko – individuals targeted in the previous sanctions list.
The latest measures also target some hi-tech exports that “could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities”.
Diplomats in Brussels also said European Union governments had reached a preliminary agreement to impose asset freezes and visa bans on another 15 people as part of expanded sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. The names are expected to be released on Tuesday, although more could still be added.
Russian stock market fell sharply on Friday as investors weighed the impact of western sanctions over Ukraine.
The MICEX index, which is priced in roubles fell as much as 3% and the RTS, which is priced in dollars fell 3.6%
Shares slumped after President Barack Obama said sanctions might be extended to key parts of the Russian economy if Russia took further action in Ukraine.
Russia’s mining, defense and natural resources sectors could all be targets.
Stocks recovered some ground during the day after President Vladimir Putin moved to restore calm following the introduction of asset freezes and visa bans by the US against high ranking Russian officials.
The MICEX closed down 1% and the RTS index was down 1.45% at the end of the day.
Russia’s financial services industry found itself under the most pressure.
Visa and Mastercard said earlier on Friday they had stopped providing services to two Russian banks, Rossiya and SMP Bank.
Rossiya, described by the US as Russia’s 15th largest bank, has assets of $12 billion. It said card payment services for its clients had been stopped without notification.
US officials said Bank Rossiya, which is linked to a number of Russian businessmen, had been sanctioned, and would be “frozen out” from the dollar.
Russian stock market fell sharply as investors weighed the impact of western sanctions over Ukraine
They described Rossiya as a “personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation”.
Visa and Mastercard confirmed they had stopped providing services to SMP Bank without providing notification.
In a statement SMP, which is Russia’s 39th biggest bank with $5 billion in assets, called Visa and Mastercard’s actions “illegitimate” because its owners, rather than the bank itself, were the subject of sanctions.
The bank’s co-owners, billionaire brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, are childhood friends of Vladimir Putin and were hit with sanctions on Thursday.
Vladimir Putin said Bank Rossiya was “just an average bank” which had “nothing to do” with events in Crimea.
He added he did not hold an account with the bank, but promised to open one “first thing on Monday” and asked for his salary to be transferred there.
Vladimir Putin also ordered Russia’s central bank to “take the bank’s clients under protection and provide all possible assistance to them.”
Russia’s central bank said the blacklisting of Rossiya and its transactions by the US did “not have a serious bearing on the lender’s financial stability”.
Although only banks with connections to high ranking Russian officials have been targeted Russian bank shares were broadly lower.
Shares in Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, closed 1.17% lower – having fallen 2.9% earlier on Friday, while shares in VTB Bank were 2.61% lower after falling 4.3% earlier in the day.
Other sectors were also hit. Gas giant Gazprom was down 0.9%, oil firm Lukoil ended the day 1.36% higher. Russian steel company NLMK closed 1.94% lower.
Shares in gas producer Novatek closed down 9.63%. The company is part owned by Gennady Timchenko, a shareholder in Bank Rossiya and one of the wealthy Russian businessmen targeted by Western sanctions.
Ratings agencies S&P and Fitch warned they were changing their outlook for the Russian economy to “negative” from “stable” – the first stage before a possible downgrade in the country’s credit rating – because of the potential impact of sanctions.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticised the move, suggesting it was not an objective decision and that somebody “ordered” it.
Russia’s credit rating is currently BBB.
Meanwhile the rouble was stable on Friday having previously fallen sharply on Thursday evening in response to the announcement of further US sanctions.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels are discussing the bloc’s response, including imposing a visa ban and an asset freeze against a number of Russian officials following Crimea’s controversial referendum on Sunday.
According to Crimean officials, Sunday’s referendum overwhelmingly backed leaving Ukraine.
Ukraine’s chief electoral official, Mikhail Malyshev, said the vote was nearly 97% in favor of joining the Russian Federation, with a turnout of 83%.
The EU has already suspended talks on an economic pact with Russia and an easing of visa restrictions.
The EU will impose a visa ban and an asset freeze against a number of Russian officials following Crimea’s controversial referendum
Speaking in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the “so-called referendum” was “illegal under the constitution of Ukraine and under international law”.
“I call upon Russia yet again to meet with Ukrainian leaders and to start a dialogue with them, and to try to move to de-escalation, please, as quickly as possible. We’ve seen no evidence of that,” Catherine Ashton told reporters.
The baroness said the EU “can’t simply sit back and say this situation can be allowed to happen”, but that ministers needed to think carefully about what their response should be.
The White House has also described Russia’s actions in Crimea as “dangerous and destabilizing”, and said the international community would not recognize the results of a poll “administered under threats of violence”.
President Barack Obama has warned Moscow that Washington is also ready to impose “costs” over its actions in Ukraine.