Trump administration targets Putin's inner circle in new sanctions

Glen Norman
April 7, 2018

Although this magazine has frequently lamented President Trump's tendency to praise Vladimir Putin and his regime in public, we've also applauded the administration for its punitive actions against the Kremlin's dictator.

According to the Washington Post, "The United States imposed new economic sanctions on senior Russian politicians, companies and business leaders Friday, citing a list of complaints including Moscow's attempts to undermine Western democracies, support of separatists in Ukraine and its backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad".

Those hit include metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, described as operating for the Russian government, as well as Alexei Miller, director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

Senior officials in Donald Trump's administration announced the sanctions as part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. to push back against Mr Putin's government.

Deripaska has been accused of threatening to kill business rivals, wiretapping government officials, money laundering, extortion, and racketeering.

These entities have been punished for their "malign activity around the world", the US Treasury Department said.

Kirill Shamalov married Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova in February 2013 "and his fortunes drastically improved following the marriage" that have helped to build his personal welath into the billions.

Those punished aren't necessarily involved in the Russian actions in Syria, Ukraine or elsewhere that have drawn consternation from the west. Any assets they hold in areas under USA jurisdiction could now be frozen.

"Congressman Joaquin Castro ... and Congressman Mike Turner... introduced the bipartisan Stand with UK Against Russia Violations Act in response to Russia's nerve agent attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom last month", the release said.

The sanctions also include Andrey Akimov, chair of the management board of Gazprombank, Russia's largest state-owned bank, as well as Viktor Vekselberg, chair of Russian investment company Renova Group.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites", Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Friday.

Campaigners against Kremlin corruption welcomed the US move.

State-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, and the Russian Financial Corporation Bank were also targeted under new USA sanctions. The administration has also expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian consulates in response to Russian behavior, including the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain that has been blamed on Moscow.

Trump angered many members of Congress by failing for months to implement sanctions on Russian Federation that lawmakers passed almost unanimously previous year.

Other oligarchs on the list include top names on the Forbes list of billionaires who are not part of Mr Putin's inner circle but, like any other billionaire tycoons in Russian Federation, vie for the Kremlin's attention to preserve and extend their business empires.

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