US imposes sanctions on Russian individuals, firms

The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on Russian individuals and companies over a range of activities, including Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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

According to the US Treasury Department, the measures target seven businessmen close to President Vladimir Putin, 12 of their companies as well as 17 senior government officials for what it called a range of “malign activity.”

Companies like Gazprom, Burenie and Renova group have also been added to the sanctions list while freezing the US assets of “oligarchs” such as aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.

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.

“The United States is taking these actions in response to the totality of the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity across the world,” one official said. “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 added. 

The Russian government has been recently blamed for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent living in Britain last month.  

British media and politicians speculated that Russia might be behind the incident. Moscow has strongly denied the allegations and expressed its readiness to help with the investigation.

Washington said the punitive measures are in response to Russia’s policies regarding Ukraine and Syria, as well as its cyber activities and attempts to subvert western democracies. The US sanctions are the most significant since Crimea’s re-integration with Russia in 2014.

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