The United States has received a warrant to seize this Boeing 737-7JU aircraft owned by Russian energy company Rosneft. Photo courtesy of U.S. Justice Department/Release
March 9 (UPI) -- The United States government has been authorized to seize a Boeing 737 jet owned by Rosneft Oil Company on accusations that it has violated punitive measures imposed against Russia over its war in Ukraine.
The aircraft, valued at $25 million, was last in the United States in 2014, but Biden officials say its recent travel to and from Russia violates U.S. sanctions and export controls that prohibit U.S.-manufactured aircraft from entering the country without a license.
U.S. officials had request permission to seize the jet, with a warrant authorizing the move unsealed Wednesday, the Justice Department said.
"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 Ukraine," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.
The United States and its partners have been targeting Russian oligarchs and their assets since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, in a coordinated effort with allies to financially squeeze those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since those sanctions went into effect, the 737 aircraft has left and re-entered Russia at least seven times, according to U.S. officials.
By ignoring the export controls, Rosneft, which is headed by U.S.-sanctioned oligarch Igor Ivanovich Sechin, converted its jet into "contraband," Andrew Adams, director of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing sanctions against Russia.
The warrant, he said, provides a roadmap to the private sector and foreign partners "who will refuse to provide refuge and support to the operators of this aircraft as the United States pursues its seizure and forfeiture in aid of Ukraine."
The seizure operation is to be coordinated through Task Force KleptoCapture, which was founded in March of last year.
According to the U.S. Treasury, since the war began, the administration of President Joe Biden has added more than 2,500 Russian-related targets to its Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons list, including 2,400 people and entities, 115 vessels and 19 aircraft.
The United States and its partners have also frozen billions of dollars in Russian assets as well has seized several yachts and aircraft of sanctioned oligarchs and their companies.