US sanctions Russian oligarchs, government officials over alleged US election meddling
The United States has imposed major sanctions against 24 Russians, striking at allies of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 US election and other “malign activity”.
The action, taken under pressure from the US Congress, freezes the US assets of seven oligarchs including aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Mr Putin, and politician Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.
Mr Deripaska’s blacklisting will also reverberate around the world because his empire has a global footprint and counts major multinationals as partners, including German car maker Volkswagen.
The sanctions largely respond to what US intelligence agencies have said was Russian interference in the presidential election, although the Treasury Department painted them as a response to a series of adversarial actions by Moscow.
US President Donald Trump has faced criticism — including from fellow Republicans — for not taking strong action against Russia after a series of diplomatic disputes reminiscent of the Cold War era and for doing too little to punish Russia for the election meddling.
Russia denies interfering in the election.
The sanctions could complicate his hopes for good relations with Mr Putin.
Relations worsened recently when the US expelled Russian diplomats over a poisoning case in Britain and imposed sanctions on Russians for alleged links to cyber attacks.
Preparations for a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin will not be affected by the sanctions, the White House said.
“As the President has said, he wants to have a good relationship with Russia but that’s going to depend on some of the actions by the Russians,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.
Russia said it would respond firmly to the sanctions.
“Of course we will not leave this current and any new anti-Russian attack without a harsh answer,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“But first of all we would like to recommend that Washington discard illusions that we can be spoken to in the language of sanctions.”
A look at some of those targeted by US sanctions
At 36, he is Russia’s youngest billionaire and is reportedly married to President Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Katerina Tikhonova. There are conflicting reports about whether the couple has split, but The Treasury Department states directly that he is Putin’s son-in-law, although the Kremlin has never acknowledged that Tikhonova is Putin’s younger daughter. Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $US1.4 billion.
The 44-year-old is Mr Putin’s former judo partner. He is the son of billionaire Arkady Rotenberg and Forbes estimated his wealth at more than $US1.1 billion.
The metals tycoon, 55, figured in the Russia investigation over his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who once worked as his consultant. He is worth $US5.3 billion, according to Forbes.
He gained notoriety in 2004 for buying the world’s largest private collection of imperial Faberge eggs and bringing it back to Russia. Forbes estimates his fortune at $US14.6 billion, which he built by investing in aluminium and oil industries.
He is part of the Kremlin elite and is involved in making key economic decisions. Mr Kostin, 61, heads Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB, which is majority-owned by the state and plays a pivotal role in the Russian economy.
The CEO of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant, is a long-time associate of Mr Putin’s. Mr Miller, 56, has played a key role in spearheading Gazprom’s expansion, including its booming gas sales to Europe.
The 66-year-old KGB veteran known for his hawkish anti-Western stance has been involved in preparing key foreign policy decisions and is believed to be one of Mr Putin’s closest and most influential advisers.
Mr Zolotov, 64, is another powerful representative of Kremlin hawks. As the National Guard chief, he commands a force that numbers hundreds of thousands of troops.
Since being appointed as governor of the Tula region in 2016, Mr Dyumin, 45, has received unusually prominent coverage by state media, fuelling speculation Mr Putin is grooming him as a possible successor.
He reportedly has known Mr Putin since the 1980s when they worked together as KGB officers in Dresden, East Germany. In 2012, Mr Putin named Mr Shkolov to a key Kremlin position overseeing personnel and later put him in charge of anti-corruption efforts.
A career police officer, he became Russia’s interior minister in charge of the entire national police force in 2012. Mr Kolokoltsev, 56, is considered to be a good professional who doesn’t have much political clout.
The 67-year-old headed Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the KGB successor agency dealing with spying abroad. In 2017, he was given an honorary position at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a government-funded think tank that was reportedly involved in Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Election.
The 53-year-old head of Roskomnadzor, the state communications oversight agency, has directed efforts to shut down some online media and other resources critical of the Kremlin, but he is not perceived as someone who wields any political influence.
As the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, Mr Kosachev, 55, has actively promoted the Kremlin foreign policy agenda, but he’s not seen as close to decision-making.