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The U.S. sanctioned owners of six Russian ships over allegations that they are helping transfer refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of international prohibitions.

The ships, based in Vladivostok, Russia, and operating for Primorye Maritime Logistics Co. and Gudzon Shipping Co., have defied international sanctions against North Korea by engaging in transfers of oil to North Korean ships, which then take the contraband to North Korean ports, the Treasury Department said Tuesday.

"The Treasury Department is disrupting Russian efforts to circumvent our sanctions," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a news release. "Today's action against these deceptive actors is critical to ensure that the public is aware of the tactics undertaken by designated parties and that these actors remain blocked from the U.S. financial system."

President Donald Trump's administration has been warning against the practice for months. But while negotiations with North Korea were going well, the administration largely turned a blind eye to the problem.

[NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA: Maps, data on country’s nuclear program]

The marine companies were sanctioned for doing business with a Russian company, Divetechnoservices, that the Trump administration had sanctioned June 11 over its links to Russia's Federal Security Service, the main security and intelligence agency in the country.

In the months since Trump's June summit in Singapore with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, North Korea has shown few signs that it intends to surrender its nuclear or ballistic weapons or even to slow down the manufacture of new ones. As a result, Trump's administration is once again ratcheting up the economic pressure on Pyongyang and its enablers.

Similarly, although Trump had a warm meeting last month in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his government has been increasing pressure on Moscow. On Tuesday, that pressure grew with the announcement of sanctions against a variety of marine companies for supplying underwater equipment and diving systems to Russian government agencies, including the Federal Security Service. The companies include Vela-Marine Ltd. and two people associated with sanctioned companies, Marina Igorevna Tsareva and Anton Aleksandrovich Nagibin.

Tensions with Russia remain high amid the investigation into its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether it colluded with Trump or members of his campaign.

Information for this article was contributed by Saleha Mohsin of Bloomberg News and by Gardiner Harris of The New York Times.

A Section on 08/22/2018

Print Headline: Sanctions hit Russian shipowners

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