US imposes sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials

The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control.

The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank.

The punitive actions are the latest escalating step by the US to punish Putin’s inner circle for interfering in the 2016 election and other ongoing aggressions across the globe in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.

“Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, citing Russia’s occupation in Crimea and its ongoing efforts to supply the Assad regime in Syria with materials and weapons.

A senior administration official told reporters in a briefing the sanctions had been under review for some time but were not imposed solely in response to a single event. Rather they were “in response to the totality of the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity around the world.”

Friday’s sanctions list targets a number of Russian tycoons, including Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire who once had close ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Kirill Shamalov, an energy executive who married Putin’s daughter; and Suleiman Kerimov, who allegedly brought millions of euros into France in suitcases.

The move comes after 60 American diplomats left Russia as part of tit-for-tat series of expulsions following the poisoning of a Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, allegedly at the hands of the Kremlin. The US joined more than 20 countries expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers.

While Russia has denied any involvement, the attack is seen by both the US and key allies as part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive action by Putin, which has included military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, ongoing support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and interference in the democratic elections in the US and Europe.

President Trump’s outgoing national security H.R. McMaster used his final public remarks before retiring Tuesday to publicly call for a tougher line on Russia. “We have failed to impose sufficient costs,” he said Tuesday during a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

While President Trump has continued to press for good relations with Russia, Congress and the rest of the administrations have pursued efforts to punish the Kremlin.

So far, the administration has sanctioned 189 Russian related individuals and entities under various programs, according to the senior administration official.

In January, the US identified more than 200 wealthy Russians, top officials and business leaders in response to a sanctions law passed by Congress last summer to punish Russia for interfering in US elections. Months later in March the administration slapped sanctions on Russian government hackers and spy agencies, including people named in FBI Robert Mueller’s indictment.

The 17 senior Russian officials whose assets will be frozen include Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council; Vladimir Kolokoltsev, minister of internal affairs and general police of the Russian Federation; and Evgeniy Shkolov, an aide to Putin.

Among the companies targeted by the US include GAZ Group, Russia’s leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles owned by Deripaska, and Russian Machines and Renova Group, which is comprised of investment funds and management companies operating in the energy sector in Russia.