US targets Russian fintech operators for Ukraine sanctions evasion work

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Treasury on Monday said it had imposed sanctions on Russian financial services and technology players, including blockchain firm Atomyze, for developing or offering services in virtual assets aimed at evading Ukraine war-related sanctions on Russia.

The Treasury said its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 13 entities and two individuals in the latest round of sanctions targeting Russia's core financial infrastructure to block its use of the international financial system to further its Ukraine war aims.

Five of the entities were designated for being owned or controlled by persons already sanctioned by OFAC. Among the firms targeted is Atomyze, a fintech firm controlled by sanctioned Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin's Interros Holding investment group.

Treasury said Atomyze was designated for its work to tokenize precious metals and diamonds for Russian companies and its partnership with sanctioned Russian banks Rosbank and Sovcombank.

Atomyze won Russia's first government license to issue and exchange digital financial assets in February 2022, just three weeks before Russian forces invaded Ukraine. In July 2022, Atomyze launched the first digital token backed by palladium produced by Nornickel, a sanctioned metals producer also controlled by Potanin.

Other companies put on OFAC's specially designated nationals list include fintech firm Lighthouse, which in June 2022 executed the first cash-backed Russian digital asset deal. Treasury said Lighthouse has worked with Russia's sanctioned central bank and sanctioned major lenders VTB and Sberbank.

Other financial technology firms hit with OFAC sanctions include B-Crypto, Masterchain and Veb3 Technology, the Treasury said. The sanctions generally ban the designees from U.S. dollar transactions and the U.S. financial system.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)