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Foreign Ministry to support Russian Sovfracht shipping company's lawsuit in US

As the US Department of Justice alleges, the Sovfracht employees used "front companies and falsified information in shipping records" to supply jet fuel to Syria

MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. Russia’s Foreign Ministry will provide maximum support to Sovfracht shipping company in filing a lawsuit in a US court over unfounded accusations against the company’s employees, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in response to a question from TASS on Thursday.

"On June 12, accusations were brought against Sovfracht employees. We saw the statement by the company’s management that they are going to apply to a US court," Ryabkov said.

"We, as the ministry, will render them maximum support, including sharing our observations and assessments of what is really happening in this regard in the US state apparatus," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.

"Some media outlets wrote about ‘quite a harsh and emotional tone’ of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s comments lately on US decisions. I don’t consider our tone to be emotional while the harshness is linked with the fact that we, indeed, perceive the developments precisely in this way," Ryabkov pointed out.

"These are outrageous, triple and not even double standards and the unwillingness to reckon with anything. The US manifests itself fully in such steps," the high-ranking Russian diplomat noted.

"Counter-measures to the accusations can only be aimed at protecting the interests of companies, these citizens and increasing chances for the reasonable outcome of this case," the Russian deputy foreign minister said.

The US Department of Justice on Tuesday indicted five employees of Russia’s Sovfracht shipping company for allegedly supplying jet fuel to Syria in violation of US sanctions imposed on that Arab country.

The US Department of Justice alleged that five Russian nationals who are employees of Sovfracht "conspired to violate US economic sanctions against Syria" and made "US dollar wires to Syria and to sanctioned entities in Syria without receiving a license from the US Treasury Department."

According to US Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, three Syrians are also indicted along with the Russian nationals in this case.

As the US Department of Justice alleges, the Sovfracht employees used "front companies and falsified information in shipping records" to supply jet fuel to Syria aboard tankers owned by the Russia-based Transpetrochart Company.

The document also claims that these individuals engaged in U.S. dollar transactions, which passed through the United States’ financial system. This practice continued even after the US Department of Treasury blacklisted Sovfracht in September 2016 for "Crimean sanctions violations" and prohibited the company from transacting in U.S. dollars without first receiving a license from the US Treasury Department, regardless of whether or not the transaction was for the supply of goods to Syria. For example, on May 11, 2017, the US Department of Treasury blocked two wires from Sovfracht that passed through the United States "totaling $2,957,983 for the delivery of jet fuel to Syria," the statement alleges.

The US Department of Justice admits, however, that these charges still have to be proven in a court of law. At the same time, the statement says that the defendants may face a penalty of up to 25 years in prison and fines.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement circulated on Wednesday that "Washington has again demonstrated its political blindness by accusing the staff of Sovfracht public joint stock company of shipping aviation fuel to Syria."

"Back in 2016-2017, the United States blocked in its banks this company’s money transfers worth $5.5 million and now has made this new infamous step in response to our demands to return these funds," the statement says.

"The aviation fuel whose deliveries were ensured by Sovfracht was intended for units of Russia’s Aerospace Force, which are helping to fight terrorist groupings on Syrian soil," the Foreign Ministry noted.

"The US references to its own sanctions against the legitimate authorities of Syria who are bearing the main brunt of this struggle in the interests of security on the entire planet are not simply a new outrageous attempt to spread American national laws far outside the US borders but also actual support of terrorists," the statement says.