Currently (i.e., for the past most-of-a-decade), Russia is under heavy sanctions for invading Ukraine, supporting al-Assad, associating with North Korea, ignoring human rights, using chemical weapons both in Syria and in an attempt to assassinate a Russian expat in the U.K., launching cyberattacks against the U.S. and other NATO countries, throwing the 2016 U.S. presidential election, selling weapons to various countries the U.S. doesn't like, and being a total dick in general.

(Edit: And now invading the rest of Ukraine, prompting Poland, Romania, and the Baltics to invoke the North Atlantic Treaty against Russia.)

I've come across someone selling some things online that I might want to buy when I can scrape the money together to do so, and they have stellar reviews (giving me confidence that they're selling quality product and this isn't a scam), but they're selling from Vladivostok, which is in Russia; is it legal to buy online from a Russian-based seller, given that the country is heavily sanctioned (and especially now that Russia's openly at war with both Ukraine and NATO)?

  • 1
    It isn't sanctioned as heavily as say North Korea (not yet at least). It's still perfectly legal for citizens of the 2 countries to visit each other's counterpart, let alone to buy stuff.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 21, 2022 at 12:53
  • @Greendrake: Sounds like an answer...
    – Vikki
    Feb 21, 2022 at 14:50

1 Answer 1


The short answer is generally yes, but also.... it depends.

The long answer is also... it depends. The first question is what (or who) is actually being sanctioned, second who is impacted by the sanction, third what is the specific sanction? There are a variety of different types of sanctions, sanctions against the state, businesses, people, etc. Most sanctions for example are against specific people, or conduct like investment or movement of capital, not necessarily the purchase of goods. I go into further discussion below, but for the quicker answer to your specific question, unless the person you are buying from is directly sanctioned or the subject of sanctions, or the entities specifically involved in the sale of goods (export company, vessel, etc) are directly sanctioned (or Russian companies operated in Crimea), yes it would be legal to purchase. So yes, unless the specific item you are buying/ entity you are buying it from is specifically sanctioned it would be legal, it is not particularly common for sanctions to prohibit the purchase of goods by consumers, unless there is a unique circumstance.

Here is the 2-3 page overview of U.S. sanctions on Russia: https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/IF10779.pdf

As to the further discussion. For example see below, many current sanctions are against government officials; Or in the case of EO 13685 from 2014 concerning the occupation of Crimea many of the sanctions imposed aren't strictly against Russia, but instead prohibits U.S. business, trade, or investment in occupied Crimea.

EO 13685 excerpt:

Section 1. (a) The following are prohibited:(i) new investment in the Crimea region of Ukraine by a United States person, wherever located; (ii) the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from the Crimea region of Ukraine; (iii) the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, services, or technology to the Crimea region of Ukraine; and (iv) any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by this section if performed by a United States person or within the United States.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

(And even then sanctions may apply, unless they don't...)

CRS Report:

The United States has imposed sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on at least 735 individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft that OFAC has placed on its Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) or Sectoral Sanctions Identification List (SSI) (see Table 1 and Table B-1). The basis for most of these sanctions is a series of four executive orders (E.O.s 13660, 13661, 13662, and 13685) that President Obama issued in 2014.15 In addition, the Department of Commerce’s BIS denies export licenses for military, dual-use, or energy-related goods to designated end users, most of which also are subject to Treasury-administered sanctions.

Two of President Obama’s Ukraine-related E.O.s target specific objectionable behavior. E.O. 13660 provides for sanctions against those the President determines have undermined democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; undermined Ukraine’s peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity; misappropriated Ukrainian state assets; or illegally asserted governmental authority over any part of Ukraine. E.O. 13685 prohibits U.S. business, trade, or investment in occupied Crimea and provides for sanctions against those the President determines have operated in, or been the leader of an entity operating in, occupied Crimea.

The other two E.O.s provide for sanctions against a broader range of targets. E.O. 13661 provides for sanctions against Russian government officials, those who offer them support, and those operating in the Russian arms sector. E.O. 13662 provides for sanctions against individuals and entities that operate in key sectors of the Russian economy, as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.



See further references below:





  • 1
    So buying rings online from a seller in Vladivostok isn't prohibited, but it would be prohibited if they were selling from Sevastopol instead?
    – Vikki
    Feb 21, 2022 at 17:35
  • 1
    @Vikki I can't say I've read all the documents, but yes as long as the seller/region isn't prohibited it should be fine. Though if you want to be certain it might be worth it to contact an attorney or someone with familiarity.
    – Dot_plot21
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:56
  • 1
    I would put a big "subject to change without notice" flag on any answer. The sanctions applicable to Russia are likely to change dramatically imminently and may be tweaked multiple times as the situation progresses. There is vast uncertainty involved in any transaction with Russia right now. For example, there is a proposal to remove Russia from the SWIFT system which would prevent payments from the U.S. to a Russian vendor using a Russian financial institution from clearing.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 24, 2022 at 20:35

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