By Simon Saradzhyan
The United States last week slapped sanctions on two Russian companies accused of assisting Iran's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program while at the same time removing several Russian companies and a scientist from its blacklist.
The sanctions were imposed because of "credible information" that the companies had transferred to Tehran equipment and technology that "have the potential of making a material contribution to [weapons of mass destruction], or cruise or ballistic missile systems," U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington, news agencies reported.
It was not clear which Russian companies were added to the blacklist, which bars them from trading or cooperating with U.S. firms for two years. Agence France Presse, citing unidentified Russian media reports, said one of the two firms is the Omsk Engine-Construction Plant, a manufacturer of airplane and rocket engines.
"Russia rejects the principle whereby one nation imposes sanctions on organizations in another country," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Our position ... is well known."
Companies from China, Macedonia, Belarus, Taiwan, North Korea and the United Arab Emirates were also blacklisted.
Meanwhile, the embassy said sanctions were lifted for six other Russian companies and a scientist -- chemical weapons expert Anatoly Kuntsevich.
Two of the companies the United States cleared last week -- the Central Scientific Research Institute of Precision Machine Building in the Moscow region and the Volsky Mechanical Plant in Saratov -- were involved in designing and producing Kornet anti-tank missiles for Syria in 1998. However, sanctions were not lifted on a third company involved in that deal, the Tula Design Bureau, which continues to proliferate "lethal military equipment," the embassy said.
The other companies cleared were Grafit, which produces heat-resistant materials used to power submarines, the Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering, which develops nuclear reactors, and the private companies MOSO and Europalace 2000. The first two, according to press reports, are thought to have shared sensitive technologies with Iran. MOSO is suspected of being involved in a failed attempt to ship metal for making missile hulls to Iran.
"These penalties were removed because the United States determined that there was no evidence that these entities have continued the activity for which they were sanctioned and/or because removal was judged to be appropriate and in U.S. interests," the embassy said.
The other Russian entities that remain on the blacklist are the Baltic State Technical University of St. Petersburg, Glavkosmos of Moscow, the Moscow Aviation Institute and the D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology of Russia.
Defense experts say U.S. sanctions may hurt a company's reputation, but they have little practical effect.