U.S. Sanctions Russia’s Evrofinance Mosnarbank in Ongoing Disputes Over Venezuela
On Monday, Mar. 11, the United States Treasury Department launched new sanctions against Russian-based bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank. The bank is notoriously linked to supporting the Nicolas Maduro regime in present control of Venezuela and represents a crucial tie between the governments in Moscow and Caracas. Evrofinance stands as yet another figure in the ongoing standoff between Russia and the United States.
The sanctions come amidst revelations that Evrofinance serves as a financier of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, commonly known as PdVSA. PdVSA has been sanctioned by the United States since January of 2019. Evrofinance is under dual ownership of Russian and Venezuelan state entities. Russian stakeholders include Gazprombank and the VTB Bank, both of whom are sanctioned entities by the U.S. since 2014, while Venezuelan ownership falls under the Venezuelan National Development Fund known as FONDEN, as initiated by previous Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Evrofinance Mosnarbank came to prominence in recent connection to Venezuela due to its financing of a Venezuelan crypto-currency termed “Petro” launched in 2018. Reportedly, investors in Petro were encouraged to financially support the currency project by funneling their money through wire transfers into a Venezuelan state-owned account within Evrofinance Mosnarbank. This investment scheme was intended to aid the Maduro government in avoiding U.S. detection and sanctioning by channeling the funding through Evrofinance and Russian entities.
Evrofinance Mosnarbank has formally denied any and all allegations claiming its connection to financing PdVSA, and its servicing of crypto-currency. However, the U.S. Treasury Department has gone forth with sanctioning the Moscow-based bank and accuses the bank of contributing to the continuing humanitarian crisis and suffering in Venezuela. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lambasted Russia in a recent statement on the Evrofinance sanctions saying that “‘The Kremlin [stands] with its Venezuelan cronies against the will of the people of a sovereign nation to protect a Moscow-friendly regime.’” The U.S. State Department also released a report that Evrofinance Mosnarbank contributes to the private financial gain of the illegitimate Maduro regime while, “the Venezuelan people are starving and sitting in the dark as their electrical system fails,” and the sanctions represent a step to counteract current anti-democratic activity.
While the sanctions explicitly identify the injustices occurring in Venezuela today, the targeting of Evrofinance Mosnarbank amplifies ongoing tensions and animosity amounting between the governments in Washington and Moscow, stirring further uncertainty in the progression of events in Venezuela.