Published: Sun, April 08, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

U.S. hits Russian oligarchs, senior officials with new sanctions

U.S. hits Russian oligarchs, senior officials with new sanctions

The United States struck President Vladimir Putin's inner circle Friday, imposing sanctions on seven of Russia's most influential oligarchs and stoking a diplomatic crisis some have dubbed a new Cold War.

Rather than punishing Russia for one specific action, the new sanctions are in response to "the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern" of bad behaviour, said the officials, who weren't authorised to comment by name and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

The fresh sanctions are the latest step by the United States against Russia following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England, interference in the USA 2016 election and a cyber-attack.

In all, President Donald Trump's administration targeted seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian officials and the state-owned arms export company Rosoboronexport.

The officials ticked through a list of activities they said had prompted the U.S. to act, including Russia's annexation of Crimea, backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, cyber-hacking and attempts to subvert Western democracy.

On the London Stock Exchange, global depositary receipts of En+, an energy company majority-owned by Deripaska, dropped by 19 percent on news of the sanctions.

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The statement went on to say the U.S. had a "desire to split" Russian society, which "will not work", adding "under the external pressure, the country has always united around its leader".

The president had long disputed the idea that Russia's alleged cyber-espionage and propaganda efforts sped him to victory in the election, seeking better relations with Putin. Assets of those targeted in the United States have been blocked, and all USA -based entities are forbidden from doing business with them.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs", he added.

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

The seizure of Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States has demonstrated that "the right to private property, once sacred for Americans, has become an empty phrase", the ministry said.

Numerous targets are individuals and businesses associated with Russia's energy sector, including those affiliated with state-owned Gazprom.

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"Having obtained zero results from the 50 previous rounds of sanctions, Washington continues to employ fear with the refusal to issue American visas, the threatening of Russian businesses with the freezing of companies' assets and property, while forgetting that the requisitioning of private property and other people's money is known as theft", the Ministry added.

"We would like to advise Washington to get rid of illusions that we can be spoken with the language of sanctions", the ministry said.

The sanctions follow weeks of tit-for-tat diplomatic measures between Russian Federation and Western states following the poisoning of a Russian Federation former double agent in Britain last month.

However, now actual targeted personal sanctions for some of the 210 oligarchs that appeared on the Kremlin List could bring about a second wave of agitation in the Russian business elite.

There was no immediate reaction from Russia's government.

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