In the event of war, insurance contracts generally continue to run until their natural expiry date, but coverage must be considered to be very limited, as losses directly or indirectly related to war events are excluded in almost all lines of business.
The war in Ukraine, which has been raging since February 24th, and the response of the Western world in the form of economic sanctions against Russia have so far had a drastic impact on the insurance industry. Insurance brokers who deal with risks located in Ukraine and Russia and whose clients include Russian legal entities or natural persons are therefore obliged to deal with these effects.
Insurance of risks in Ukraine
According to the insurance definition, the entire territory of Ukraine is to be classified as a war zone, and strict sanctions also apply to the territories of Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk.
In the event of war, insurance contracts generally continue to run until their natural expiry date, but coverage must be considered to be very limited, as losses directly or indirectly related to war events are excluded in almost all lines of business. A grey area also arises in the case of losses that remain still covered, as obligations as a prerequisite for payment by the insurer cannot possibly be met. This will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Insurance companies outside Ukraine are not prepared to renew insurance contracts or write new business in view of the war situation and the associated imponderables for contract performance. Insurance companies based in Ukraine are currently operating in emergency mode and can only provide a very limited service. It must therefore be assumed that there will be great difficulties in providing proper insurance cover in Ukraine.
Insurance of risks in Russia
Russia itself is not a war zone, existing coverages and contracts are therefore in principle fully valid. However, Russia is affected by sanctions imposed by the UN, the EU, the USA and Great Britain, which include a ban on insurance services for certain persons, companies and entities as well as certain goods and productions (sectoral sanctions). These sanctions must be complied with by all citizens of the respective issuing states or communities of states under personal threat of punishment.
While it cannot be the task of the insurance broker to advise his clients on the sanctions associated with the delivery of goods or financial transactions, it is part of his service commitment to provide information on possibilities for insuring risks, insofar as these are legally permissible in the light of the sanctions, and to take appropriate measures to obtain insurance cover.
In addition to the sanctions briefly mentioned here, all Western insurers and reinsurers have now decided not to offer any new capacity to Russian insurers. The Russian Federation reacted to this at the beginning of this week and, for its part, has banned Russian insurers from cooperating with foreign partners – i.e. insurers and insurance brokers – from “unfriendly countries”, including all EU members, until the end of this year. Thus, Russia is isolated from the international insurance market. The major international insurance brokers have subsequently withdrawn from Russia, and insurers with subsidiaries in Russia will most likely follow.
If the interests of EU-domiciled clients in Russia now require insurance cover, the only recommended course of action is for the respective company representatives to contact a Russian insurance broker on site, who can then obtain the required cover. This is because from an EU perspective, insurance brokers, as well as other companies, are not allowed to contact most Russian insurers because they are on the sanctions list as described above. On the other hand, the Russian insurance market consists of several professional insurers, which are now backed by the Russian state reinsurance company, so that common insurance coverage seems to be available. However, it should be borne in mind that insurance is only possible in rubles, lower sums insured than those needed could only be obtained and the financial strength of these insurers will also suffer in the future as a result of the sanctions.
It is currently still being examined whether capacities for Austrian interests in Ukraine and Russia are available from Austrian or Western insurers within the concept of balance sheet protection (so-called FINC clause); expectations must be classified, however, as rather limited for the time being.
Insurance of Russian interests within the European Union, the UK and the US
The sanction regime outlined above also requires the verification of Russian interests in Western states. The media have already reported confiscations of the property of oligarchs on the Mediterranean or in Great Britain. In this sense, the provision of insurance in the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States to sanctioned persons or entities is also prohibited. If sanctioned persons are found in an existing portfolio, the insurance broker must also withdraw from these persons or entities and terminate the business relationship, preferably in consultation with the insurance companies concerned. In case of doubt, institutions such as the Chambers of Commerce or the Ministry dealing with the sanction regime provide information on whether a person or company or entity is subject to sanctions. However, it is expected that a preliminary check will be made by the broker using the published sanctions lists.
Although the scope of economic ties with Belarus may be significantly smaller than that of relations with Russia, it can be assumed that, on the one hand, the sanctions will increasingly be applied to this country as well and, on the other hand, the Western insurance industry will completely withdraw from cooperation with local insurers.
Please note that all information is based on the current state of developments in this military conflict and changes may occur at any time.
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