U.S. curbs Russian access to foreign fertilizers and valves

A tractor sows sunflower seeds and fertilizes the soil with chemicals at "Leninskoye znamya" (Lenin banner) collective farm, about 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Rostov-on-Don, April 25, 2011. REUTERS/Vladimir Konstantinov/File Photo

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - The United States on Friday broadened its export curbs against Russia and Belarus, restricting access to imports of items such as fertilizer and pipe valves as it seeks to ratchet up pressure on Moscow and Minsk following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden's administration also restricted flights of American-made aircraft that are owned, controlled or leased by Belarusians from flying into Belarus "as part of the U.S. government's response to Belarus's actions in support of Russia's aggressive conduct in Ukraine."

Washington has sought to deepen sanctions against Russia and ally Belarus after a withdrawal of Russian troops from northern Kiev revealed mass graves in the town of Bucha.

On Wednesday, the United States targeted Russian banks and elites with a new round of sanctions, including banning Americans from investing in Russia, in response to what President Joe Biden condemned as "major war crimes" by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion, which began on Feb. 24, is Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War Two. Russia calls it a "special military operation" aimed at protecting civilians.

The Commerce Department said it will begin requiring Russians and Belarusians to get a special license when seeking to obtain a host of goods from U.S. suppliers and pledged to deny those licenses. The goods include fertilizer, pipe valves, ball bearings and other parts, materials and chemicals.

The administration said items made abroad with U.S. tools would also require a U.S. license, which the administration plans to deny.

"It is evidence they are going to continue tightening export controls and targeting on an economy-wide basis those categories they have not yet done," said Emily Kilcrease, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative, noting that the Commerce Department now has further restricted Russian access to all items whose export it regulates. "That's significant."

Actions in late February and March placed unprecedented controls on export of U.S. and foreign-made items destined for Russia or Belarus. Those measures, coordinated with over 30 other countries, restrict a broad swath of commodities, software and technology.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld Editing by Chris Reese; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.