On April 19, 2021, in response to reported human rights violations by the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued General License 2H (“GL 2H”)[1] under the U.S. sanctions program targeting Belarus.  GL 2H revokes and replaces General License 2G (“GL 2G”),[2] which authorized U.S. persons to engage in transactions with nine sanctioned Belarusian state-owned entities.

By way of background, in 2006, the Bush administration issued Executive Order 13405 (“E.O. 13405”), which authorized the imposition of sanctions on parties deemed to have participated in undermining the 2006 democratic presidential election in Belarus and human rights abuses related to political repression.[3]  The following nine Belarusian state-owned entities subsequently were designated on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (“SDN List”) pursuant to E.O. 13405 (any entities that those entities directly or indirectly owned 50% or more of, individually or in the aggregate, also were subject to sanctions under OFAC’s 50% rule):

  • Belarusian Oil Trade House
  • Belneftekhim
  • Belneftekhim USA, Inc.
  • Belshina OAO
  • Grodno Azot OAO
  • Grodno Khimvolokno OAO
  • Lakokraska OAO
  • Naftan OAO
  • Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO (the “Sanctioned Entities”)

However, since October 2015, GL 2G (and earlier versions of it) authorized U.S. persons to engage in transactions that otherwise would have been prohibited by E.O. 13405 involving the Sanctioned Entities.[4]  General License No. 2G was set to expire today (April 26, 2021).

GL 2H, which, as noted above, revokes and replaces GL 2G, marks a significant shift in U.S. sanctions targeting Belarus, particularly given that the Sanctioned Entities, which reportedly support the government of Belarus President Lukashenko, have ownership interests in a variety of companies that make up a significant portion of the Belarusian economy.  As a result, U.S. persons will need to be vigilant to avoid dealing with the Sanctioned Entities as well as entities that are owned, individually or in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more of the Sanctioned Entities.

GL 2H does include a 45-day wind down period.  In particular, U.S. persons are authorized to engage in transactions and activities prohibited by the Belarus Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 548) that are “ordinarily incident and necessary” to the wind down of transactions involving any Sanctioned Entity through June 3, 2021.[5]  U.S. persons participating in a transaction, or series of transactions, authorized by GL 2H in excess of $50,000 are required to file a report with the U.S. Department of State no later than 30 days after executing the transactions(s).

[1] OFAC, “Authorizing the Wind Down of Transactions Involving Certain Blocked Entities” (Apr. 19, 2021), available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/belarus_gl2h.pdf.

[2] OFAC, “General License with Respect to Entities Blocked Pursuant to Executive Order 13405” (Oct. 22, 2019), available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/belarus_gl2g.pdf

[3] See “Executive Order on Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus” (June 16, 2006), available at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2006-06-20/pdf/06-5592.pdf.

[4] GL 2G did not lift the pre-October 2015 blocking sanctions applicable to the Exempted Entities’ assets or remove them from the SDN List.  U.S. persons that engaged in transactions authorized by GL 2G were also required to report any transactions in excess of $50,000 (individually or in the aggregate if a series of transactions) to the U.S. Department of State.

[5] Note, U.S. persons are still required to file reports on such transactions in excess of $50,000 with the U.S. Department of State.