US sanctions Russian oligarchs, officials in Putin's inner circle



WASHINGTON, dpa correspondents (dpa)- The United States slapped sanctions on Russian oligarchs and top government officials from President Vladimir Putin's inner circle on Friday, citing Moscow's "range of malign activity around the globe," including in Ukraine and Syria.
Seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies they control and 17 senior government officials are on the list announced by the Treasury Department on Friday.



Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova.
Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova.
The sanctions were not in response to any single event or issue, a senior administration official said, but instead to "the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity across the world."
Russia "chose to repeatedly interfere in the democratic processes of the United States and our allies ... to destabilize Europe through military pressure, malicious cyber activity," the official said.
The Russian embassy in Washington denounced the sanctions.
"Washington has delivered yet another blow on the Russian-US relations," the embassy said in a statement reported by Tass.
"Now, the sanctions cover captains of Russian business who refuse to play to Washington’s scenario," the embassy said.
The embassy went on to say that the US "has made yet another erroneous step to destroy the freedom of enterprise and competition...."
The move targets Russia's elite and people in power who "have reaped great benefits under the Putin regime and who play a key role in advancing the Kremlin's malign agenda," a senior Trump administration official explained.
Among them is Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova.
The Treasury Department noted that Shamalov's "fortunes drastically improved following the marriage," and a year later he was able to borrow more than 1 billion dollars from state-owned Gazprombank, eventually joining "the ranks of the billionaire elite around Putin."
"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Also included on the Treasury list are a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.
Mnuchin accused Moscow of engaging in "a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine."
In addition, Russia supplies the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with "material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities," Mnuchin said.
Last month, the US imposed sanctions against five Russian entities and 19 individuals for cyberattacks and attempted interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
It marked the first use of a law Congress passed in June to punish Russia for its alleged election meddling.
While US President Donald Trump signed the law, he later issued statements saying that he believed the legislation was "seriously flawed."
The Treasury Department had in January named and shamed 210 Russian political figures and oligarchs linked to the Kremlin, issued in connection with the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
But the list did not impose sanctions, fuelling criticism that Trump is unwilling to confront Moscow over its alleged meddling.
On Friday, Mnuchin said: "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities."
Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to maintain good relations with Putin, and called to congratulate him on his re-election last month, drawing criticism from opposition Democrats and some fellow Republicans.
Putin said he was ready to meet with Trump even after Washington decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain following the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
This week Trump told a news conference that "no one has been tougher on Russia" than him. Yet, he has never criticized the Russian leader directly.
Asked Friday if the latest round of sanctions dampened chances of an eventual Trump-Putin summit, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, "no, not at all."
While Trump would continue to be "tough" on Russia until it changed its behaviour, Sanders said the White House would still pursue "a meeting with Vladimir Putin at some point."
A senior official said the Trump administration has so far sanctioned 189 Russian-related individuals and entities under various sanctions programmes.
"The door to dialogue is open," the official said. "We seek a better relationship with Russia. That can only happen when Russia stops its aggressive behaviour."
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Saturday, April 7th 2018
dpa correspondents (dpa)
           


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