The Trump Administration announced Friday that it would impose new sanctions on more than two dozen Russian oligarchs and senior political officials, as well as on several affiliated firms and a state-owned weapons trading company.
The sanctions come in response to what the administration described as Russia’s “malign activity around the globe.”
“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement announcing the sanctions. “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. Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”
Here’s what you need to know.
Who is being affected by the sanctions?
The sanctions specifically target seven Russian oligarchs — business titans with de facto political power — and 12 companies they control, as well as 17 high-ranking officials in the Russian government. A weapons company controlled by the state and its subsidiary bank are also subjects. All these actors, the Treasury Department said, “benefit from the Putin regime and play a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities.”
Among the oligarchs are Kirill Shamalov, an energy magnate who was once married to President Vladimir Putin’s daughter, and Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire who previously had close business ties with Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign head. (Manafort was indicted last October in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.) According to the Treasury Department, Deripaska is tied to at least seven of the 12 companies hit by the sanctions.
What do the sanctions entail?
According to the Treasury Department, all assets belonging to the impacted parties that fall within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. On top of that, U.S. citizens are forbidden from transacting with them, at risk of facing sanctions themselves.
Didn’t the U.S. already issue sanctions?
Yes. The U.S. sanctioned 19 Russians over interference in the 2016 election just three weeks ago. These sanctions come after Congress passed a law last summer to sustain the economic offensive against Russia — a bill that Trump signed while holding his nose.
“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low,” Trump tweeted then. “You can thank Congress.”
So what does this mean for the U.S. relationship with Russia?
It’s complicated. Trump has faced widespread criticism for his reluctance to act punitively towards Moscow over its interference in the presidential election seventeen months ago. The new sanctions suggest that his administration has acquiesced to pressure from lawmakers. Earlier this week, though, it was reported that Trump and Putin had discussed a potential bilateral meeting at the White House sometime in the future.