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Experts say lifting of US sanctions on FSB as senseless as their imposition

February 03, 2017, 18:11 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Earlier the US authorities relaxed the sanctions regime against the FSB

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Russia's Federal Security Service headquarters in Moscow

Russia's Federal Security Service headquarters in Moscow

© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. The imposition and the subsequent cancellation of US sanctions against Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) are solely "a media phenomenon" as American companies requesting certifications and licenses from the FSB did not need to work with the security services directly, experts polled by TASS said.

Earlier the US authorities relaxed the sanctions regime against the FSB as evidenced by General License No. 1 issued by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The document authorizes with certain exceptions "all transactions and activities" with the FSB’s participation earlier prohibited by the US president’s executive orders of April 1, 2015 and December 28, 2016.

Specifically, the document authorizes requesting, receiving, utilizing, paying for, or dealing in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications issued or registered by the Federal Security Service for the importation, distribution, or use of information technology products in the Russian Federation."

'Strange sanctions'

The Financial Times reported earlier on Friday that the United States had eased its sanctions, including over complaints by the US companies Microsoft and Cisco.

According to the paper, the US companies complained that the US sanctions kept them from obtaining the necessary paperwork to trade with Russia.

However, the paper’s experts described the change as "a routine regulatory fine-tuning" designed to benefit US companies and not Russia.

Cisco did not comment on the relevant inquiry from TASS. Microsoft also declined the comment.

Experts are unanimous that the sanctions were a sort of a "media phenomenon." Thus, Head of InfoWatch Group, co-founder of the Kaspersky Lab Natalia Kaspersky believes that the US sanctions looked strange as Russian subsidiaries rather than their American parent companies can get licenses or certifications.

"Some subsidiaries of companies can obtain licenses. A distributor or a dealer working with a particular software product gets the license, applies for certification and, consequently, conducts sales - this option is possible," she told TASS.

In her opinion, "the sanctions themselves were strange as they did not influence anything either then or now."

This view is shared by Igor Ashmanov, information technology and software expert and CEO of the firm Ashmanov & Partners.

"Earlier, none of them [none of the US companies] directly contacted with the FSB for obtaining the license while certifications were obtained by some distributor, integrator or subsidiary. That is why, this [the sanctions regime] was imposed as a media trick and cancelled because this was senseless," he told TASS.

In Ashmanov’s opinion, the ban on the certification in the FSB would have had no effect and would have not hurt companies.

"Perhaps, some dealers started to devise some schemes to dodge it but now they have breathed a sigh of relief," he said.

"This [the imposition and the cancellation of the sanctions] is a media action, a PR for their audience," the expert said.

"The US sanctions were quite archaic. That is why, if fulfilled literally, companies, indeed, would have been unable to interact with the FSB for obtaining licenses," President of the Information Democracy Development Fund Ilya Massukh told TASS.

As the expert noted, companies have their Russian representative offices, through which activities could be conducted.

FSB’s licensing

The sale of hardware and software on the Russian market requires the FSB’s licensing and certification. Specifically, the FSB licenses electronic devices, the activities for developing and making information security products, as well as the activities for developing, producing and spreading encryption tools, information and telecommunications systems secured by encryption.

Encryption items are present in virtually every gadget - a phone, a notebook or a tablet computer.

An FSB license is required for any activity related to personal information and confidential data.

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