U.S. to sanction five Turkey-based firms over accusations of Russia support

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Russian President Vladimir Putin grimaces during his joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (not pictured), September 4,2023, in Sochi, Russia.

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The Biden administration is set to impose sanctions on five Turkish companies and a Turkish national on Thursday, accusing them of helping Russia evade sanctions and supporting Moscow in its war against Ukraine, a senior Treasury official said.

The designations — which include shipping and trade companies accused of helping repair sanctioned vessels tied to Russia’s defense ministry and helping the transfer of “dual-use goods” — will be part of a bigger package targeting Russia with sanctions on more than 150 entities.

The action comes at a delicate moment for U.S.-Turkey relations, with Washington hoping Ankara will ratify NATO membership for Sweden when the Turkish parliament reconvenes in early October.

The United States and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbor Turkey and other trading hubs have remained open, prompting Washington to issue repeated warnings about the export of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort.

Multiple senior U.S. officials, including Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, have traveled to Turkey since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine as part of a pressure campaign to prevent any Turkish companies from helping Russia circumvent U.S. curbs.

Wally Adeyemo, deputy U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

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“For the past 18 months, we’ve shared our concerns with the Turkish government and private sector and informed them of the significant risks of doing business with those we’ve sanctioned who are tied to Russia’s war,” said the senior Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“These designations reflect our ongoing commitment to target individuals and entities who provide material support to sanctioned entities,” the official added.

Blocking dual-use goods

The U.S. Treasury will designate Margiana Insaat Dis Ticaret and Demirci Bilisim Ticaret Sanayi, saying the companies were among those that Russia relied on for importing “much needed dual-use goods to enable its unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.”

It said the former has made hundreds of shipments to sanctioned Russian entities that are part of the supply chain for producing military drones used in the Ukraine war, while the latter has sent sensors and measuring tools into Russia.

The U.S. State Department will impose sanctions on Denkar Ship Construction for providing ship repair services to previously designated vessels of a company connected to the Russian Defense Ministry.

It will also target Turkey-based shipyard agency ID Ship Agency and its owner Ilker Dogruyol as well as CTL Limited, which the State Department said was an intermediary that ships electronic components of U.S.- and European-origin to companies in Russia.

The broader sanctions package targets Russia’s industrial base, maritime sector and technology suppliers, as well as facilities producing and repairing Russian weapons systems, the official said.

NATO member Turkey has sought to maintain good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv amid the war. It opposes the sanctions on principle but has said they will not be circumvented in Turkey and that no shipped products can be used by Russia’s military.

Ties with the U.S. have been strained over Turkey’s reluctance to support the bids of Sweden and Finland to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine. While Finnish membership was sealed in April, Sweden’s application remains held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Ankara has accused Sweden of harboring militants hostile to the Turkish state, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and United States.

After months of objections, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed at a NATO summit in July to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament for ratification, but the exact timing of the approval remains unclear.

The United States has repeatedly said Sweden has done enough to alleviate Turkey’s concerns and that its membership should be approved now.

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