- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2018

The Trump administration Friday slapped sanctions on Russian senior officials, oligarchs and the companies they own, going after those closest to President Vladimir Putin to punish Moscow’s sinister activities around the world.

In a significant escalation of the sanctions, President Trump targeted oligarchs and companies in the energy sector that are the lifeblood of the Russian economy.

He also hit Mr. Putin’s son-in-law who became a major energy sector player after marrying into the Putin family.

The sanctions froze all assets for seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said they went after the oligarchs and government elites because they are the ones who profit from the Kremlin’s operations.

“The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities,” he said. “Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

The sanctions are part of increasingly strong moves by the Trump administration. They follow previous sanctions on Russian officials and the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats last month over Moscow’s nerve-agent assassination attempt on a former Russian double agent in the U.K.

The U.S. now has hit 189 Russian individuals and entities with various sanctions.

The new sanctions brought a swift condemnation from senior Russian officials, who accused the Trump administration of lashing out to mask America’s own mounting problems.

“This is complete lawlessness, impotence and insanity that we’re seeing from the side of the Americans,” said Gen. Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the International Affairs Committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, according to a report in the Moscow Times. “It’s all because [U.S.] projects on the international arena are failing, one after the other.”

Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said of the Russian companies facing sanctions, “We will support them even more.”

“We will severely punish this,” he added.

President Trump, dogged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion probe, also has struggled to shake the perception that he’s soft on Mr. Putin.

“Nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have,” Mr. Trump insisted Tuesday.

The administration would not say why Mr. Putin was not included on the sanctions list, but stressed that he would feel the impact.

“This will be noticed far and wide,” said a senior administration official.

The Treasury has been preparing the sanctions for a long time, and they are directed at the “full range of Russian activities,” said another senior official.

The official said the moves are not a direct response to the assassination attempt in England, which triggered punitive action from governments around the world.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the sanctions were on target.

“After all the mayhem they’ve caused in Ukraine and Syria — and the cyberattacks they’ve launched against the U.S. — Putin’s cronies should pay for their crimes, not profit off them. Imposing these new sanctions is another strong move by the administration to rein in Russian aggression across the globe,” said the Arkansas Republican.

The move was cheered by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who has spearheaded a House investigation into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia. He said it sent a “strong message to the Kremlin.”

But he challenged Mr. Trump to personally rebuke Mr. Putin, an action the president resisted.

“While these actions are welcome and long overdue, they would be stronger if accompanied by a clear statement from the president himself that the United States recognizes Russia’s attack on our democracy and its destabilizing behavior, and that we are determined to impose severe consequences for these actions and any others in the future,” Mr. Schiff said.

The Russian oligarchs hit with sanctions included the following:

• Oleg Deripaska is a senior official who operates in the energy sector. He has been investigated for money laundering and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations he bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organized crime group.

• Kirill Shamalov is Mr. Putin’s son-in-law and an energy sector operator. He married Mr. Putin’s daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, in February 2013 and his fortunes drastically improved following the marriage. Within 18 months, he acquired a large portion of shares of Sibur, a Russia-based company involved in oil and gas exploration, production, processing and refining.

• Vladimir Bogdanov operates in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy. He is the director general and vice chairman of the board of directors of Surgutneftegaz, a vertically integrated oil company operating in Russia.

• Suleiman Kerimov is a member of the Russian Federation Council. He has been investigated for money laundering. He is accused of bringing hundreds of millions of euros into France — transporting as much as 20 million euros at a time in suitcases, in addition to conducting more conventional funds transfers — without reporting the money to French tax authorities.

• Igor Rotenberg operates in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy. He acquired significant assets from his father, Arkady Rotenberg, one of the world’s wealthiest men who is already under U.S. sanctions. The father sold his son 79 percent of the Russian oil and gas drilling company Gazprom Burenie, the biggest Russian oil and gas field services company.

The Kremlin has sent mixed signals on its attitude toward the role of some of Russia’s richest and best-connected citizens.

Mr. Putin himself gave a speech this week deploring the growing market power of state-owned companies in the Russian economy, saying they were driving smaller private companies out of business.

But Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s main spokesman, said the Trump administration was targeting a phantom as Moscow awaited word of the new sanctions.

“We deem the phrase ‘Russian oligarchs’ inappropriate,” Mr. Peskov told reporters in Moscow Thursday. “It’s been a long time since Russia had oligarchs. There are no oligarchs in Russia.”

• David Sands contributed to this article.

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