On September 7, 2023, the European Commission published a new guidance note to help European operators identify, assess, and understand the possible risks of sanctions circumvention following the wide-ranging imposition of sanctions upon Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The guidance was issued to address the increasingly elaborate tactics that Russia has used to circumvent EU sanctions in a desperate attempt to acquire goods to support its military industrial complex and sell goods to fund the war with Ukraine. The guidance is intended to help EU operators carry out due diligence when trading with third countries and ensure that their business partners are not circumventing sanctions. It is also intended to serve as a practical guide for EU operators to provide them with steps that they can apply when conducting strategic risk assessments and help mitigate their exposure to sanctions circumvention schemes.
The guidance also provides EU operators with a current list of red flags to alert them to possible circumvention risks when entering into commercial relationships with new trading partners. It also provides those with increased exposure to circumvention risks with a list of general good practices to enable them to enhance their due diligence protocols, and includes an outline of best practices for addressing different types of sanctions circumventions. In the guidance, the Commission also reminds EU operators to share any information concerning possible sanctions violations using the EU sanction whistleblower tool, which enables operators to anonymously share information with the Commission.