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Touted as most agressive move, US sanctions 24 allies of Vladimir Putin

The action, taken under pressure from the US Congress, freezes the US assets of oligarchs such as aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin

Reuters  |  Washington 

Donald Trump - Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump - Vladimir Putin

1The imposed major sanctions on Friday against 24 Russians, striking at allies of 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 oligarchs such as aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin, and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.

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 Donald Trump has been under fire for not taking strong action against after a series of diplomatic disputes reminiscent of the Cold War era. The sanctions could complicate his hopes for good relations with Putin.

Relations already had worsened recently as the expelled Russian diplomats over a case in Britain and imposed sanctions on Russians for alleged links to cyber attacks.

The latest move is aimed at seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, plus 17 senior Russian officials. They freeze the US assets of the people and companies named and forbid Americans in general from doing business with them.

Trump has faced criticism — including from fellow Republicans — for doing too little to punish for the election meddling. The Department said the sanctions were in response to Russia’s “malign activity,” including its actions in Ukraine, its support of Bashar al-in Syria’s civil war and subverting Western democracies.

US intelligence agencies last year accused of using hacking, false information and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 elections and try to ensure Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Russia denies interfering in the election.

Preparations for a meeting between Trump and 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 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.”

The sanctions could hurt the Russian economy, especially the aluminium, financial and energy sectors, and are a clear message to Putin and his inner circle of US displeasure.

on the sanctions list include Viktor Vekselberg, key owner of Renova holding group who Forbes magazine ranks as Russia’s 9th richest businessman. He is famous for bringing back a collection of Faberge eggs to Russia.

Also targeted is Kirill Shamalov, a minority shareholder with petrochemical company Sibur. Shamalov married Putin’s youngest daughter Katerina in 2013 but unconfirmed media reports say they have since split.

The CEO of Russia’s gas exporter Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said he was proud to be targeted by sanctions.

“Not being included in the first list I even had some doubts - maybe something is wrong (with me)? But I am finally included. This means that we are doing everything right,” Miller said through his spokesman, referring to an earlier US list of Russian oligarchs.

Gazprom has relationships with major foreign companies, especially in Europe.

Gazprom itself is not under sanctions, but the inclusion of Miller on the blacklist could create complicated legal dilemmas for partner companies. Although they are under European Union jurisdiction, they will not want to fall foul of any US legislation.

Deripaska’s blacklisting will also reverberate around the world because his empire has a global footprint and counts major multinationals as partners, including German automaker Volkswagen.

Meet the seven Russian oligarchs who face the brunt

Vladimir L Bogdanov,

secretive leader of an oil giant

Bogdanov, 66, is the director general and co-owner of Surgutneftegas, the fourth-biggest oil producer in Russia, which has an unusually opaque ownership structure, even by Russian standards. On paper, Bogdanov, an associate of Putin’s since the days when the president was a local in St Petersburg, owns just 0.37 per cent of the company, with a majority of its shares controlled by a web of “noncommercial partnerships.”

Oleg V Deripaska, Industrial tycoon tied to Paul Manafort

Deripaska controls Basic Element, which in turn owns more than 100 Russian and companies. He laid the foundation of his empire in the “aluminum wars” of the 1990s, a vicious struggle for control of natural resources in which he emerged triumphant, becoming the undisputed king of aluminum production in Russia.

Suleiman A Kerimov,

gold magnate and politician

Kerimov, 52, is both the owner of Polyus, Russia’s biggest gold mining company, and a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russian parliament. He has been under investigation in for tax fraud and money laundering, suspected of buying several villas in Cap d’Antibes through shell companies.

Igor A Rotenberg,

heir to a construction fortune

Rotenberg, 44, is the son of Arkady R Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner, and their family’s business fortunes have gone hand-in-hand with Putin’s political career. Igor Rotenberg is a junior partner in one of the country’s largest construction companies, controlled by his father and his uncle.

Kirill N Shamalov,

said to have been

Putin’s son-in-law

Shamalov, 36, became a high-ranking executive and large shareholder of Sibur, a gas processing and petrochemical company, shortly before he married Katerina Tikhonova, who is widely believed to be Putin’s daughter.

Andrei V Skoch,

billionaire parliamentarian

Skoch, 52, a member of the Russian parliament, part owner of a steel company, and a shareholder in the investment conglomerate run by Alisher B Usmanov, a close associate of Mr. Putin’s, who controls one of Russia’s largest phone companies. Numerous media reports have linked Skoch to organised crime — specifically to the syndicate known as the Solntsevo gang.

Viktor F Vekselberg,

one of Russia’s wealthiest men

Vekselberg, 60, who is close to the Kremlin, is the founder and principal owner of Renova Group, a large investment conglomerate with an array of assets around the world, including metals production, energy, telecommunications and banking companies, and a number of Russian airports.

- © 2018 The New York Times News Service

First Published: Sat, April 07 2018. 20:45 IST