Trump administration to sanction Russian oligarchs

Trump administration to sanction Russian oligarchs
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The Trump administration announced Friday it will sanction seven Russian oligarchs and a dozen companies they own and control, its most aggressive effort yet to curb the activities of influential Russian business elites.

The sanctions were imposed under a law Congress overwhelmingly passed last year to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and other destabilizing activities, including its military intervention in Ukraine and involvement in the Syrian civil war.

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“The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe,” Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSchumer requests investigation into Trump admin decision to delay bill featuring Harriet Tubman Schumer requests investigation into Trump admin decision to delay bill featuring Harriet Tubman Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record MORE said in a statement. “Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

“This [is a] response to Russia’s continued attacks to subvert Western democracies,” a senior administration official said.

Those now sanctioned include Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE’s former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway FBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway Justice Department intervenes, keeps Manafort from being sent to Rikers Island: report MORE, who has been indicted in the special counsel’s investigation into the Kremlin’s election-meddling efforts.

Also among those subject to new sanctions is Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally and Russian banker who has been scrutinized for his ties to the National Rifle Association. The FBI is reportedly investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the NRA to help get Trump elected. 

The Treasury Department is also sanctioning the chairman of Russian energy giant Gazprom, Putin adviser Suleiman Kerimov and Kirill Shamalov, who married Putin’s daughter in 2013.

Sanctioned companies and people will have any U.S. assets frozen and Americans will be banned from dealing with them.

In total, 38 Russian people and entities are being sanctioned, including 17 senior government officials and a state-owned weapons trading company that the U.S. says has aided Syrian government forces in the country’s civil war.

The sanctions are the latest move by the Trump administration to rebuke Moscow for malicious activities, even as the president holds seeks to improve his relationship with Putin.

Moscow has long denied it sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The announcement comes one week after the U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats accused of being spies and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle, part of an international effort to punish the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Great Britain.

Russia has also denied responsibility for the attack.

Under pressure from lawmakers, the administration last month unveiled sanctions on two-dozen Russian individuals for malicious cyber activity, including interference in the election.

Administration officials said that the latest sanctions impose a “new level of cost” on Russia for its behavior, emphasizing that many of the individuals and entities are now facing penalties for the first time.

Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate, has longstanding business relationships with both Putin and Manafort. The former campaign chair reportedly offered to brief Deripaska on the 2016 presidential race shortly before Trump accepted the Republican nomination.

The U.S. cited accusations of money laundering, bribery and death threats by Deripaska, who has purported to work on behalf of senior Russian government officials, in imposing the sanctions.

Updated at 12:42 p.m.