Published: Sun, April 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

US imposes sanctions on Putin's oligarch allies

US imposes sanctions on Putin's oligarch allies

Preparations for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be affected by sweeping U.S. sanctions imposed yesterday on Russian government officials and businessmen, the White House said, Reuters reported.

The sanctions freeze the USA assets of "oligarchs" such as aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus.

A dozen Russian companies owned by the oligarchs were also targeted, along with a state-owned arms-dealing company and a subsidiary bank, the Treasury Department said.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites", Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

To the dismay of Trump's critics and of Russia hawks, the president has continued to avoid directly criticizing Putin himself, and recently invited the Russian leader to meet with him, possibly at the White House.

"This included their occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in eastern Ukraine, support for the Assad regime in Syria... and ongoing malicious cyber-activity", the senior official said.

The sanctions could potentially hurt the Russian economy, especially the financial and energy sectors, and are part of Washington's effort to hold Russia to account for allegedly interfering in the election, which Moscow denies. "But they are", the embassy added, explaining that the companies added to the sanctions list employ thousands of people.

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US intelligence agencies say Russian Federation used hacking and propaganda in an effort eventually aimed at favouring Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

USA officials confirmed that their action against the oligarchs was in part related to Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. vote, but stressed the broader nature of their concerns.

But Friday's announcement also came as Washington and its allies face a new diplomatic crisis with the Kremlin over the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter on British soil. Both remain in hospital more than a month after being poisoned.

As a result of the punishment, all assets of the designated persons and entities that are subject to USA jurisdiction are frozen, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

Friday's sanctions were authorized by the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as CAATSA, which Trump reluctantly signed into law in August. Senior administration officials cast the penalties as part of a concerted and ongoing effort by the United States to push back Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and his inner circle, emphasizing that since Trump took office previous year, the USA has punished 189 Russian-related people and entities with sanctions.

Many of the Russian oligarchs and politicians and affiliated businesses had already been identified by the Treasury and State Department as potential targets on a list that was compiled and published in January.

"It looks increasingly like [Mueller] is investigating the Russian invasion of the United States political system and not collusion", Starr said.

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