U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Putin Cronies for Russia’s ‘Malign Activity’

U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Putin Cronies for Russia’s ‘Malign Activity’

A combination of file photos show prominent Russian businessmen and officials on a U.S. sanctions list released by the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. April 6, 2018. (Top, L-R) Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Bogdanov, Suleiman Kerimov, Kirill Shamalov, Viktor Vekselberg, (middle L-R) Mikhail Fradkov, Sergei Fursenko, Alexei Dyumin, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Konstantin Kosachev, (bottom, L-R) Andrei Kostin, Alexei Miller, Nikolai Patrushev, Vladimir Ustinov, Viktor Zolotov. REUTERS/FilesReuters

By Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States imposed major sanctions on Friday against 24 Russians, striking at allies of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other “malign activity.”

The action, taken under pressure from the U.S. Congress, freezes the U.S. assets of oligarchs such as aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin, and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.

The sanctions largely respond to what U.S. intelligence agencies have said was Russian interference in the presidential election, although the Treasury Department painted them as a response to a series of adversarial actions by Moscow.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been under fire for not taking strong action against Russia after a series of diplomatic disputes reminiscent of the Cold War era. The sanctions could complicate his hopes for good relations with Putin.

Relations already had worsened recently as the United States expelled Russian diplomats over a poisoning case in Britain and imposed sanctions on Russians for alleged links to cyber attacks.

The latest move is aimed at seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, plus 17 senior Russian government officials. They freeze the U.S. assets of the people and companies named and forbid Americans in general from doing business with them.

Trump has faced criticism – including from fellow Republicans – for doing too little to punish Russia for the election meddling. The U.S. Treasury Department said the sanctions were in response to Russia’s “malign activity,” including its actions in Ukraine, its support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war and subverting Western democracies.

U.S. intelligence agencies last year accused Russia of using hacking, false information and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 elections and try to ensure Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Russia denies interfering in the election.

Preparations for a meeting between Trump and Putin will not be affected by the sanctions, the White House said.

“As the president has said, he wants to have a good relationship with Russia but that’s going to depend on some of the actions by the Russians,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.

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