U.S. shortens extension of GAZ Group licenses over tensions with Russia

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WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday shortened the usual extension of two general licenses for Russian commercial vehicle manufacturer GAZ Group, a Treasury official told Reuters, as the United States seeks to deter Russia from invading Ukraine.

The official said the licenses, previously extended for a year at a time and set to expire on Wednesday, were being extended for only 90 days.

"These authorizations were extended for a shorter time period given the current situation with Russia; further extension will be informed by Russia’s behavior," the official said.

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Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders. It denies planning an invasion but NATO said it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe -- moves that Moscow described as "hysteria".

The United States has warned that Russia will face massive consequences if it invades Ukraine.

The licenses authorize certain activities involving the van maker and transactions necessary to divest or transfer debt, equity or other holdings in GAZ.

The Treasury imposed sanctions in 2018 against billionaire Oleg Deripaska and eight companies in which he is a large shareholder, including automaker Gaz, citing "malign activities" by Russia.

FBI agents in October raided Washington and New York City homes linked to Deripaska, a metals industry magnate with Kremlin ties. read more

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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