Foreign companies who cannot (timely) fulfil their contractual obligations to a Russian partner due to COVID-19 may obtain a force majeure certificate from the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This certificate will serve as evidence that the non-performing party cannot be held liable for any damages or penalties as a result of its late or non-performance.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (‘CCI’) grants the force majeure certificate only in regard to the liabilities arising from contractual obligations and having occurred on the territory of Russia. The basis of the force majeure circumstances is not the coronavirus epidemic itself, but legal measures implemented by the Russian authorities, which contain direct prohibitions and restrictions and, in this regard, make it impossible for the parties to fulfil their obligations.
Measures restricting access to Russia in an effort to combat the virus are recognized as circumstances of force majeure. Such measures make it temporarily impossible for foreigners to enter the Russian Federation for performance of installation, maintenance, repair and other services under a contract. Other circumstances cannot be attributed to force majeure, but are considered normal entrepreneurial risks, in particular: deterioration of the economic condition of the enterprise, a change in the exchange rate, and the devaluation of the national currency.
A force majeure certificate can be obtained by filing a request with the CCI. It requires the submission of an application, accompanied by the complete contract and addendums hereto, as well as the detailed argumentation referencing all force majeure circumstances with evidence thereof from relevant authorities. The application shall be in Russian, and can be submitted via an authorized representative.
The Russian CCI in Moscow issues force majeure certificates specifically for international transactions. It is making special efforts to review all applications.
Please note, that even if invoking force majeure releases a party from liability (for damages and penalties) for (partial) non-performance of contractual obligations, it must still perform its obligations as soon as the circumstances of force majeure have ended. A right of termination of the contract exists only if explicitly stipulated in the contract. Any issues with relation to the fulfillment of contractual obligations and other impact of force majeure to a specific contract must be decided by court.
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