France, Russia in Talks on Halting Champagne Label Law

But Russia does not recognize the appellation, and in July President Vladimir Putin signed a law forbidding the use of the Russian translation of champagne — “Shampanskoe” — on imported bottles.

The French government said Thursday it was in talks with Moscow about suspending a contested law barring French champagne producers from labeling their bubbly “champagne” on bottles sold in Russia.

France, home of champagne, jealously guards its AOC, or Appellation of Controlled Origin, which give its producers exclusive use of the term in many countries.

French producers can still use the word in French but only Russian producers of sparkling wines can use the term in Cyrillic — a move that caused outrage in France’s Champagne region.

Trade Minister Franck Riester told France 2 broadcaster Thursday that Paris had been in talks with Moscow “for several weeks” about suspending implementation of the law.

Describing the exchanges as “positive” and “constructive,” he said: “I hope we will have good news in the coming hour or weeks about a moratorium on this law which does not conform with the law in terms of geographic location.”

France had complained that the law was hurting its exports of champagne and asked for it to be suspended for at least a year.

Russia is the 15th biggest export market for French champagne, with 1.8 million bottles sold in the country in 2019.

The Russian agriculture ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

U.S. Sanctions Russia-Based Cryptocurrency Exchange Over Ransomware

The United States imposed sanctions Tuesday on cryptocurrency exchange SUEX for its ties to ransomware attackers, as Washington seeks to crack down on digital crime.

The move comes after hacks and data breaches that have targeted a major U.S. oil pipeline, a meatpacking company and the Microsoft Exchange email system, as well as ransomware attacks hitting various sectors.

The U.S. Treasury Department did not say if SUEX was implicated in any of those incidents, but noted that 40% of the exchange’s known transaction history was linked to “illicit actors.”

“Some virtual currency exchanges are exploited by malicious actors, but others, as is the case with SUEX, facilitate illicit activities for their own illicit gains,” the Treasury Department’s statement said.

As a result of the sanctions, any assets of the platform under U.S. jurisdiction are now blocked and Americans are barred from using SUEX.

The United States in July offered $10 million rewards for information on online extortionists abroad as it stepped up efforts to halt a sharp rise in ransomware attacks. 

This year has seen a slew of prominent ransomware attacks which have disrupted a U.S. pipeline, a meat processor and the software firm Kaseya — affecting 1,500 businesses, many of them far from the limelight.

Some $350 million was paid to malicious cyber actors last year, a spike of 300% from 2019, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. officials say that many of the attacks originate in Russia although they have debated to what extent there is state involvement. Russia denies responsibility.

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