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UK Government identifies '45 High Priority Items' for Russia's war effort - how can UK exporters protect against diversion of their exports to Russia?

on Tuesday, 24 October 2023.

In September, the UK, the US, the EU, and Japan listed 45 critical items that Russia is using in its weapons systems, as found on the battlefield in Ukraine: the Common High Priority Items list.

UK exporters should be aware of this list and make efforts to avoid listed items being acquired indirectly by persons in Russia (and the non-government controlled Ukrainian territory in Luhansk and Donetsk, and Belarus).

There is concern that Russia is obtaining these items via purchasers in third-party countries who may freely acquire these goods and then reexport them. Transhipment has been stated to occur in China, Armenia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, and many other third-party countries.

The top nine items are integrated circuits (used in drones and precision-guided weapons) and electronic components such as communications modules, each identified by its Harmonized System-6 code. Not all of the 45 items are high tech, however - TV cameras and ball bearings are included, for example.

All of these items are already listed as restricted by the UK's sanctions. The goal of the announcement is to remind UK exporters that the export of these goods indirectly to Russia via a third-party country purchaser is prohibited.

What is the current guidance for exporters in the UK and the US?

Many UK exporters already obtain written certifications of end-use/end-user. The current UK Government guidance simply states: "Businesses should undertake due diligence to ensure that the end destination of these [45] products is not Russia." 

In comparison, the United States issued a statement of best practice for U.S. exporters on 14 September 2023, including a sample purchaser certification prepared under U.S. law. It also:

  • directed US exporters to concentrate on the top nine items
  • did not insist on the certification requirement if the purchaser was located in any of the 38 countries comprising the 'Global Export Controls Coalition' - including the 27 member states of the European Union.

The European Commission is reportedly anxious about 'lax controls' in some member states allowing Russia to acquire EU-source items via third-party countries. See The Guardian's report.

What is adequate diligence by a UK exporter of its third-party country purchaser?

Accordingly, we recommend as best practice that a UK exporter of any UK-source good on the list of 45 Common High Priority Items should obtain from its purchaser in any third-party country an advance, written certification about the intended end-use and end-user. This is to protect against the reexport of the item to Russia, the non-government controlled Ukrainian territory, or Belarus. Any irregularities in the customer's approach should also be attended to.

Also, remember that a UK person involved in reexporting listed items bought in from the United States is directly subject to US enforcement if it sells to Russia, or a third party given knowledge of a Russian end-use. Such a UK person may be added to BIS's Entity List for posing a risk to the United States, even if it has no activity or assets in the United States. This happened on 6 October 2023 to a UK-based company that was found to have reexported integrated circuits from the United States to Russia.

For more information or advice on UK and US export controls and sanctions, please contact Thomas Dick in our Corporate team on 020 7665 097, or complete the form below.

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