(Bloomberg) — The U.S. sanctioned a unit of Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft PJSC for maintaining ties with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and state-run oil company PDVSA, according to U.S. government documents.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is designating Rosneft Trading SA, the company’s Swiss-incorporated brokerage firm, as well as its Chairman Didier Casimiro, according to the documents, obtained by Bloomberg News.
The action against Rosneft represents the latest escalation in the Trump administration’s campaign to oust Maduro and rally international support behind Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. The U.S. placed an array of sanctions on Venezuela last year, freezing all state assets, targeting senior officials and prohibiting transactions with state entities.
Rosneft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the wake of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, Russia has become the second-largest source of American oil imports. The nation’s crude and oil product exports to the U.S. climbed to 20.9 million barrels last October, the highest since November 2011, according to U.S. government data.
Rosneft is currently subject to some U.S. market-sector sanctions, although those measures aren’t as far-reaching as the sanctions against businesses associated with the Maduro regime and don’t prevent Rosneft from entering into transactions for Venezuelan oil.
Rosneft has been Venezuela’s main shipper of crude, which goes predominantly to refineries in India and China. The Moscow-based company, controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, has loaned $6.5 billion to Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the Latin American country’s state-owned oil company, in exchange for crude.
Venezuelan oil sales fell to a 34-year-low in 2019 after sanctions cut off trade with the U.S., until then the country’s biggest customer.
Notably, the U.S. Treasury Department has exempted Chevron Corp., allowing the company to conduct business with PDVSA. Chevron has ramped up output at a key Venezuelan oil project to levels not seen in almost a year. It’s current waiver from sanctions expires in April.
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