EU sanctions Russian-Israeli billionaire over Ukraine invasion

Disney, Warner Bros., Sony block theatrical releases in Russia • Moscow barred from World Cup, NHL suspends partnership with Russia • IIHF sanctions Russia, Belarus

European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)

The Council of the European Union has imposed sanctions on 26 more people and one entity due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including noted Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhail Fridman.

Fridman is the co-founder of Alfa Bank, one of the largest private banks in Russia as well as being a co-founder of the Genesis Philanthropy Group. He recently came out calling for a resolution to a conflict he said was "driving a wedge between the two eastern Slav peoples of Russia and Ukraine who have been brothers for centuries."

Genesis recently announced it would provide $10 million in emergency assistance to Jews impacted by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Also on the list is Petr Aven, another Genesis Philanthropy Group co-founder.

The sanctions, which now apply retroactively to 680 individuals and 53 entities, include prohibiting making funds available to them and freezing their assets, as well as a travel ban to bar the individuals from entering or traveling through the EU.

Illustration photo of a Mastercard logo on a credit card (credit: THOMAS WHITE / REUTERS)Illustration photo of a Mastercard logo on a credit card (credit: THOMAS WHITE / REUTERS)

Finance update

Mastercard has blocked multiple financial institutions from its payment network as a result of sanction orders on Russia, it said late on Monday.

The credit card company will continue to work with regulators to abide fully with compliance obligations, Mastercard said in a statement.

MEANWHILE, the rouble stabilized somewhat on Tuesday after crashing to an all-time low, while the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc were steady after their biggest rallies in almost seven weeks with traders focused squarely on the developing crisis in Ukraine.

A modicum of calm returned to currency markets after officials from Russia and Ukraine held an initial round of ceasefire talks, four days after Russia invaded its neighbor, with the euro EUR=EBS back at around $1.1200 after tumbling to as low as $1.1121 at one point on Monday.

This impact was also felt by Russian companies, with many of the agressor's key companies taking hits.

As noted by Google Finance, Gazprom was down 27.99%, Aeroflot was down 35.07%, Yandex was down 59% and Sberbank Russia was down 67.59%.

By contrast, cybersecurity stocks have jumped for fears of Russian cyberwarfare in retaliation for Western sanctions, according to MarketWatch.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday morning that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had offered his country more support in the form of sanctions and weapons.

"In our call, Secretary Blinken affirmed that the US support for Ukraine remains unfaltering," Kuleba said on Twitter. "I underscored that Ukraine craves for peace, but as long as we are under Russia's assault, we need more sanctions and weapons. The secretary assured me of both. We coordinated further steps."

Corporate pullout

A stream of Western companies pulling out of Russia is expected to grow on Tuesday, as corporations and investors across industries follow the lead of energy firms BP and Shell, which abandoned multi-billion-dollar positions after the invasion of Ukraine.

Leading banks, airlines, auto makers and more have cut shipments, ended partnerships and called Russia's actions unacceptable. Many more said they were considering action.

Three major Hollywood studios, Disney, Sony and Warner Bros., said they would pause theatrical releases of upcoming films in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The Walt Disney Co DIS.N said Monday it is pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, starting with the upcoming Pixar Animation Studios release, Turning Red. Within hours, WarnerMedia said it would pause this week's release of The Batman in Russia. Sony soon said they would do the same, including the upcoming release of Morbius.

"We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation," Disney said in a statement. "In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance."

Given the ongoing military action in Ukraine, "we will be pausing our planned theatrical releases in Russia, including the upcoming release of Morbius," a Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Over the weekend, the Ukrainian Film Academy created an online petition calling for an international boycott of Russian cinema and the Russian film industry following the invasion.

Russia is a significant market for Hollywood, accounting for $601 million in box office receipts in 2021, or about 2.8% of worldwide ticket sales, which totaled $21.4 billion last year, according to Comscore.

Several major films are slated for global release, including The Batman, scheduled to open in Russia on March 3 as part of a worldwide roll-out, and Paramount Pictures' Sonic the Hedgehog 2 which makes its global debut on April 8.

WarnerMedia said it would continue to monitor the situation as it awaits "a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy.”

American streaming platform Netflix has also stated that they will refuse to comply with new Russian rules, which state they need to carry 20 state-backed channels, Politico reported.

Sports

The impact has also been felt in sports. 

International football governing body FIFA has expelled Russia from competing in the World Cup. 

In addition, FIFA and European football's governing body UEFA have decided that all Russian teams will be suspended from European competitions such as the UEFA Champions League until further notice. UEFA and FIFA's decision means the only Russian club still in European competitions, Spartak Moscow, has been automatically eliminated from the UEFA Europa League.

This marks a drastic change from the light sanctions announced by FIFA on Sunday, as Ukrainian cities were blasted by Russian bombs.

FIFA stated that the national team will no longer be allowed to associate itself with the Russian flag and anthem and can only play using the name of its football federation, the Football Union of Russia (RFU).

In addition, Russia's national team will not be allowed to play any games on home soil, with home games set to be played in neutral venues. Stadiums in pro-Russia nations, such as Belarus and Serbia, have been brought up as alternatives.

Russia has also faced repercussions regarding hockey.

The NHL said Monday it was suspending its business partnerships in Russia and pausing its Russian language social and digital media in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine.

The league also announced that it would no longer seek to hold "any future competitions" in Russia. It sometimes holds regular-season or exhibition games in Europe, last holding an exhibition in Russia in 2010.

"The National Hockey League condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible," the league's statement said. "Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites. In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL," it said.

"We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL Clubs, and not on behalf of Russia. We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position."

The league acted after the International Ice Hockey Federation sanctioned Russia and Belarus, which is supportive of the invasion, banning both nations from upcoming world championship tournaments.

Russian NHL players themselves have come under fire amid the invasion, with goal tending great Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic recently arguing that the NHL should suspend the contracts of all Russian players.

In addition to soccer and hockey, Putin has been stripped of his honorary taekwondo black belt over his country's invasion of Ukraine, a personal rebuke heaped on top of international economic and sporting sanctions.

Meanwhile, World Taekwondo, citing its motto of "Peace is More Precious than Triumph," condemned the Russian military action in Ukraine, saying the "brutal attacks on innocent lives" violated the sport's values of respect and tolerance.

"In this regard, World Taekwondo has decided to withdraw the honorary 9th dan black belt conferred to Mr. Vladimir Putin in November 2013," the governing body said in a statement.

It added that it would join the International Olympic Committee in banning the Russian flag and anthem at its events.

The decision comes after the International Judo Federation said on Sunday it would suspend Putin's status as honorary president and ambassador "in light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine."

Putin has demonstrated capable technique while appearing in martial arts uniforms, projecting an image of strength as he has in other carefully staged events such as those of him riding bare-chested on a horse or playing ice hockey.

Tal Spungin contributed to this report.