Russian sanctions: Treasury Dept. lifts restriction on FSB - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Russian sanctions: Treasury Dept. lifts restriction on FSB

Limited easing of Russian sanctions was announced Thursday. (Source: Raycom Media) Limited easing of Russian sanctions was announced Thursday. (Source: Raycom Media)

(RNN) - The Treasury Department is going to allow some companies to do limited business with Russia's Federal Security Service, known as FSB, it was announced Thursday.

Some U.S. companies had complained the sanctions limited their ability to sell electronics such as cell phones with Russia, as the FSB governs imports with encryption technology, hte Associated Press said.

The cyber-related general license was posted on the Department of the Treasury website.

The Trump administration pushed back against assertions that sanctions against Russia were being eased.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer characterized the move as a tweak in his daily press conference Thursday.

"From what I understand it's a fairly common practice for the Treasury Department, after sanctions are in place, to go back and look at whether or not there needs to be specific carve-outs for different industries or products or services," Spicer said during the daily press briefing.

The FSB is considered the modern-day version of the KGB.

U.S. intelligence agencies accused the FSB of being involved in election-related hacking last year. The sanctions that were adjusted were in retaliation for the hacking and were imposed by the Obama administration last year.

An official said the easing of this restriction may have been in progress before Trump took office and may have been intended to remove an unintended affect of the sanctions.

"I don't think when they sanctioned FSB they were intending to complicate the sale of cell phones and tablets," Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert and former senior State Department official told Reuters.

Russian News Agency Tass quoted a Russian official as saying the move paves the way for the U.S. and Russia to join together in an anti-terror coalition.

"This shows that actual joint work on establishing an anti-terrorism coalition is about to begin," said Nikolai Kovalyov, former FSB director and member of the state Duma. "This is the first step on the way leading to cooperation in the war on terror."

The sanctions levied in retaliation for alleged election-related hacking were in addition to sanctions levied against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Crimea and aggressive actions toward Ukraine.

Fighting between government troops and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine has surged in recent weeks. NATO is also investigating reports of increased Russian activity in the Balkans, the AP reported.

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