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US sanctions another Russian company, accusing it of providing lifeline to Venezuela’s Maduro

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin visiting Jet Blue's Long Island City Support Center to meet with the company's leadership and crew members Friday, March 9, 2018 in Queens, New York. (Kevin C. Downs/New York Daily News/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed restrictive measures on another unit of Rosneft, intensifying pressure on the Russian state oil giant over its alleged support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Swiss-based TNK Trading International (TTI) now faces freezes on any property and interests in property in the United States or that are in the possession or control of U.S. persons, according to a March 12 Treasury Department press release.

The measures also generally block the firm from operating on global financial markets.

Energy-rich Venezuela has been embroiled in a months-long political standoff with opposition supporters.

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Russia, Cuba, Iran, and China are key backers of Maduro, who took office in 2013 and was sworn in for a second term in January 2019 following elections that were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized opposition leader and legislative speaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader and have demanded that Maduro step down.

TTI was accused of evading U.S. sanctions and helping prop up Maduro’s “corrupt” use of Venezuela’s lucrative oil industry.

“TNK Trading International S.A. is another Rosneft subsidiary brokering the sale and transport of Venezuelan crude oil, which is subject to sanctions,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The Trump administration remains committed to targeting those who support the corrupt regime’s exploitation of Venezuela’s oil assets.”

After the United States imposed similar sanctions on another Rosneft unit, Rosneft Trading, on February 18, cargoes of Venezuelan oil allocated to it were changed to TNK Trading International “in order to evade U.S. sanctions,” the department’s news release said.

Sanctions were also placed on the brokerage’s president, Didier Casimiro, for allegedly having “acted or purported to act for or on behalf of Rosneft Trading.”

Rosneft works with Venezuelan energy giant Petroleos de Venezuela in South America.

Reacting to the U.S. announcement last month, Rosneft said its projects in Venezuela were “in strict compliance with the norms of international and national laws” and that it “does not pursue any political goals.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions would not affect Russia’s “interaction with the lawful authorities of Venezuela.”