The United States has imposed major sanctions 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 US election and other “malign activity”.
- Seven Russian oligarchs and 17 senior government officials have had their US assets frozen
- Americans are forbidden from doing business with any of them
- Sanctions are in response to Russia’s “malign activity”
The action, taken under pressure from the US Congress, freezes the US assets of seven oligarchs including aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Mr Putin, and politician Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.
Mr Deripaska’s blacklisting will also reverberate around the world because his empire has a global footprint and counts major multinationals as partners, including German car maker Volkswagen.
The sanctions largely respond to what US 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.
US President Donald Trump has faced criticism — including from fellow Republicans — for not taking strong action against Russia after a series of diplomatic disputes reminiscent of the Cold War era and for doing too little to punish Russia for the election meddling.
Russia denies interfering in the election.
The sanctions could complicate his hopes for good relations with Mr Putin.
Relations worsened recently when the US expelled Russian diplomats over a poisoning case in Britain and imposed sanctions on Russians for alleged links to cyber attacks.
Preparations for a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr 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.
Russia said it would respond firmly to the sanctions.
“Of course we will not leave this current and any new anti-Russian attack without a harsh answer,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“But first of all we would like to recommend that Washington discard illusions that we can be spoken to in the language of sanctions.”