The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on the Moscow-based company Maritime Assistance LLC and three Russians for involvement in a scheme to ship aviation kerosene to Syria. US intelligence believes that the fuel is being used to fill the Russian aircraft used to attack opponents of the Assad regime.
“The FBI is proud to have been a part of the team that unraveled this complicated scheme that supplied fuel for Russian jet fighters supporting Assad’s regime,” said FBI spokesperson Alan Kohler.
Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the US Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said that the US has dealt a blow to the scheme to illegally send jet fuel to the Russian army in Syria, and is resolved to cut off access to the international financial system for all those who “enable the cruel war machine in Syria”.
The Treasury has also placed sanctions on three Russian citizens who are believed to hold senior positions in the company Sovfracht, which is already under sanctions. The department’s statement mentions the company’s director of maritime transport, Ivan Okorokov, his first deputy Karen Stepanyan (Sovfracht’s website describes him as the first deputy director general of maritime and river transport), and Ilya Loginov, deputy director general for legal support.
In addition, sanctions have been imposed on Maritime Assistance LLC, which the Treasury considers a front company used to make payments on behalf of Sovfracht, as well as five vessels belonging to Transpetrochart Co (also under sanctions): SIG, SUDAK, YAZ, PASSAT and OT-2077.
In 2018, the US Justice Department accused Okorov, Stepanyan and Loginov of sending aviation fuel to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. John Demers, Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division, said that the accused “plotted not to submit to our sanctions against Syria, threatening both US interests in the region and our foreign policy and national security”. At the time, Sovfracht said that the actions of the company and its staff were not breaking international law or the rulings of UN-related organizations.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the accusations against Sovfracht and its staff “political recklessness”. The ministry said in a statement that the jet fuel brought to Syria by Sovfracht “was intended to be used by the Russian Aerospace Forces, which are helping to fight against terrorist groups”.