- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kremlin officials on Wednesday lashed out at the Justice Department’s move to charge Russians with violating U.S. sanctions on Syria, calling it an act of “political blindness” and hostility.

On Tuesday at federal court in Washington, DOJ officials indicted five Russian employees of a Crimean-based shipping company, Sovfracht, for allegedly money laundering and supplying jet fuel to Syria — a violation of U.S. sanctions. Three Syrians were also charged.

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded by saying: “Washington has again demonstrated its political blindness by accusing the staff of Sovfracht public joint stock company of shipping aviation fuel to Syria.”

According to the Russian state new service Tass, foreign ministry officials denied the fuel was bound for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and was instead “intended for units of Russia’s Aerospace Force, which are helping to fight terrorist groupings on Syrian soil.”

Syria has endured seven years of horrendous civil war. For the past three, Russia’s air force has flown missions in support of the Assad regime — which requested help in the fall of 2015 when almost collapsed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called the assistance to Assad an operation against the Islamic State. Western military observers, however, have noted that Russians planes still target territory long abandoned by the Islamic State.

“The new anti-Russian statement is a new confirmation that the US … does not want in any way to learn the lessons of history and again, as we have already noted, is looking for an enemy in areas other than where it is actually present,” the foreign ministry added.

Along with the charges, the eight also face large fines. According to reports on Tuesday, the defendants had not yet entered a plea and face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

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