US punishes key Putin allies over worldwide ‘malign activity’

US punishes key Putin allies over worldwide ‘malign activity’

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It is the most aggressive move against Russia taken by President Trump’s administration

The US has imposed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and 17 senior government officials, accusing them of “malign activity around the globe”.Twelve companies owned by the oligarchs, the state arms exporter and a bank are also sanctioned.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the penalties targeted those profiting from Russia’s “corrupt system”.The move was a response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, he said.The sanctions are also being imposed because of the actions taken by the Kremlin in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, Mr Mnuchin said in a statement on Friday.He accused the Russian government of “malicious” cyber-activities and said the sanctions would target “those who benefit from the Putin regime”.”The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs,” he added.The Trump-Russia saga in 200 words
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It is the most aggressive action taken by the Trump administration thus far against Moscow.Russia has not yet responded to the sanctions.Last month the US imposed sanctions on 19 Russians, accusing them of interference in the 2016 election and alleged cyber-attacks.The US has also expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.Among those targeted is Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminium magnate and Putin associate with ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.Also on the list is Suleiman Kerimov, who is one of Russia’s richest men. His family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus, and he has an estimated net worth of $6.3bn (£4.7bn).In November, Mr Kerimov was placed under formal investigation in France on suspicion of tax evasion.
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Suleiman Kerimov is one of Russia’s richest men

Mr Putin’s bodyguard, his son-in-law, the head of Russia’s national security council, and former prime minister Viktor Zubkov are also sanctioned.Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, one of the companies targeted, said the sanctions were designed to force Russia out of the global arms market.Any assets they have under US jurisdiction have been frozen and US nationals are forbidden from doing business with them. “This is unfair competition in its purest form,” a spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.Long in the planningBarbara Plett Usher, BBC News, WashingtonOfficials in Washington say they are responding to Russia’s continued efforts to subvert Western democracies. Congress passed a law last summer calling for such measures and has criticised the Trump administration for taking so long to act. Senior officials say they have been planning the moves for some time. These sanctions were already in the works before the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in the UK but are likely to add to the rising diplomatic tensions between the West and Russia.