UNITED NATIONS - Russia will oppose a U.S. request to the U.N. Security Council to blacklist two Russian shipping firms and six Russian-flagged vessels over their dealings with sanctions-hit North Korea, the Russian ambassador said Thursday.
The United States presented a request to a U.N. sanctions committee on Wednesday — its third bid in two months to seek U.N. action and turn up the pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.
The request was put forward a day after Washington slapped unilateral sanctions on the two Russian companies — Primorye Maritime Logistics and Gudzon Shipping — and the six vessels for supplying oil to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told AFP that the U.S. sanctions were “illegal” and that the evidence put forward by the United States to justify action against the Russian firms was “unconvincing.”
“Of course we will oppose it,” said Nebenzia of the U.S. request to the sanctions committee. “It’s obvious.”
The United States was seeking a global assets freeze on the two Russian firms, according to U.N. diplomats.
The shippers own a tanker, the M/V Patriot, which conducted ship-to-ship transfers of oil to North Korean tankers twice earlier this year, according to U.S. officials.
The five other vessels cited in the U.S. request are owned by Gudzon, which along with Primorye Maritime Logistics operate out of the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
The U.N. sanctions committee has until August 29 to formally consider the U.S. request, but Russia made clear it would not be approved.
Russia and China this month blocked a U.S. bid to add a Russian bank, a North Korean official and two entities to the U.N. sanctions blacklist. In July, they delayed a U.S. request to cut off fuel deliveries to North Korea.
The two countries have called on the Security Council to consider easing sanctions to reward North Korea for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier announced he will be making his fourth trip to North Korea next week, this time with the new U.S. envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.
The United States has called for maintaining “maximum pressure” from sanctions until North Korea has fully dismantled its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
A report by a U.N. panel of experts this month warned that Pyongyang was circumventing sanctions through a “massive increase” of ship-to-ship transfers of oil products in international waters.
The Security Council last year adopted three rafts of sanctions that banned exports of North Korea’s raw commodities and other goods, and severely restricted imports including crucial deliveries of oil.
The sanctions are aimed at cutting off sources of revenue for North Korea’s military programs.