New OFAC General License Clarifies Ability to Engage in Humanitarian Assistance in Ukraine and Russia | Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
As part of the war in Ukraine, the United States has significantly increased its sanctions against the Russian Federation. However, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) recently issued a new general license, General License No. 27, which clarifies that the sanctions do not apply to certain humanitarian activities in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. Thus, non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) (including charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations) may engage in certain activities, either directly or by transferring support funds, which would be otherwise prohibited by the sanctions.
In particular, General License 27 allows NGOs to sponsor or undertake “activities in support of humanitarian projects aimed at meeting basic needs in Ukraine or the Russian Federation”, such as food and medical relief, water and sanitation projects, assistance to displaced populations, aid in the event of natural disasters. disasters and environmental programs, including the protection of endangered species and the repair of pollution or other environmental damage. The general license also authorizes activities that support “democracy building” in Ukraine or the Russian Federation, which encompasses, among other things, support for the rule of law, “accountability and transparency of government” , “access to information” and “human rights”. and fundamental freedoms”. In addition, NGOs can sponsor Russian or Ukrainian programs to fight illiteracy, improve access to education or help with education reform projects. It is important to note that not all of these activities may involve the blocked individuals or entities listed in Executive Order 14024, except that otherwise blocked financial institutions may process funds in support of these humanitarian efforts.
The General License does not require NGOs to report such authorized transactions to OFAC, although participating NGOs must still maintain detailed records of their activities in the Russian Federation or Ukraine, including a description of goods, services or funds provided, any other organizations involved, and a list of recipients. Programs authorized by the General License also may not involve activities prohibited by Executive Order 14066 (concerning the importation into the United States of Russian energy products, including petroleum and natural gas) or Executive Order 14068 (concerning the importation into the United States, among other things, of certain Russian commodities and luxury goods).
Finally, OFAC holds a number of other general licenses under the Russian sanctions program, described in OFAC’s Russia Fact Sheet. These general licenses cover the US export of agricultural products, medicines, medical devices, telecommunications equipment and software, as well as personal remittances to individuals in Russia. For more information on the scope of Russian sanctions and related general licenses, see OFAC’s FAQ page. If an activity is not covered by the general licenses, an NGO can still apply in writing for a specific license. A specific license application must describe the proposed transaction or activity and explain how authorizing that activity would not conflict with the objectives of the sanctions program.
This issuance of this general license is similar to the general licenses that OFAC has issued under its other sanctions programs. Even in places like Iran and Syria, where the United States has extensive and comprehensive sanctions programs, OFAC still authorizes a wide variety of humanitarian activities by NGOs. Without such a blanket license, OFAC’s sanctions program would unwittingly prevent aid from reaching those most harmed by sanctioned regimes. Given the evolving nature of the conflict, NGOs seeking to provide humanitarian assistance in the Russian Federation or Ukraine should continue to closely monitor OFAC regulations and press releases.