US government alleges the Boeing-made plane violated sanctions and commerce law by travelling to and from Russia.
The United States government has requested and obtained a warrant to seize a Russian aircraft valued at $25m, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The US-made plane, a Boeing 737-7JU, is accused of travelling from a foreign country to Russia, in violation of US law and sanctions implemented after Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
The plane was last in the US in 2014, according to the statement from the US Attorney’s Office for New York’s Eastern District. But the US alleges the plane has flown in and out of Russia “at least seven times, in violation of federal law”.
The Boeing is said to be owned by the PJSC Rosneft Oil Company, whose headquarters are in Moscow. It is one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil companies.
“Today’s enforcement action demonstrates there is a price to pay for Russian companies and oligarchs that flagrantly evade sanctions that the United States has imposed in response to the unjustified war against the people of the Ukraine,” US Attorney Breon Peace said in the press release.
Rosneft’s chief executive officer, Igor Ivanovich Sechin, was previously sanctioned by the US in 2014 for his ties to the Russian government.
At the time, then-US President Barack Obama issued an executive order aimed at individuals deemed to be “responsible for or complicit in” attempts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and democracy.
That year, Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea and attempted to seize territory in Ukraine’s eastern provinces. The sanctions froze Sechin’s assets in the US and barred anyone in the country from conducting business with him.
In February 2022, Russia escalated its conflict with Ukraine, launching a massive invasion with missile strikes across the country. The US has responded with aid to Ukraine and measures to isolate Russia from the international economy.
On the first anniversary of the invasion last month, the US Treasury Department announced it had implemented more than 2,500 sanctions in the last year alone.
Not only did the transfer of a US-made plane to Russia violate those sanctions, but it also ran afoul of the Export Control Reform Act, US officials said on Wednesday.
That law, enacted in 2018, grants the US president control over the export and transfer of items to “protect national security”.
“By violating Commerce Department export controls, Rosneft has converted its jet into contraband,” said Andrew Adams, director of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency initiative launched in March 2022 to enforce the US sanctions and economic measures taken in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.
In August 2022, the US issued a warrant for another US-built, Russian-owned aircraft, a Boeing 737-7EM.
The plane, worth an estimated $45m, was likewise accused of flying in and out of Russia in violation of US sanctions. It too was owned by a Russian multinational energy company, the Moscow-based PJSC Lukoil Oil Company.