In strike against Putin, US imposes sanctions on businessmen close to Kremlin

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Russian opposition figure Alexie Navanly, meanwhile, tweeted that he is "looking at the new United States sanctions list of Russian officials and oligarchs and thinking back of the day when they had champagne celebrating Trump's victory".

The sanctions will also affect 12 companies controlled by those on the list: Basic Element (associated with Oleg Deripaska), En+ and the Kuban agroholding, as well as Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group. This includes their occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in Eastern Ukraine, support for the Assad regime in Syria by supplying material and weaponry, and ongoing malicious cyber activities.

The Trump administration hit Russian officials with a new set of sanctions on Friday, in an effort to punish Moscow for its interference in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression on the global stage.

Among the companies targeted by the USA included GAZ Group, Russia's leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles owned by Deripaska along with Russian Machines and Renova Group comprised of investment funds and management companies operating in the energy sector in Russia. There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organised crime group.

At a news conference Tuesday, he said: 'Nobody has been tougher on Russian Federation than I have'.

The Treasury Department's singling out of Kerimov for allegedly smuggling cash out of Russia followed a report this week by CNN that said Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's office has been interdicting wealthy Russians as they fly into the United States in order to interview them about potentially transporting cash. Neither Mr Putin nor the Kremlin have acknowledged that she is his daughter.

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"These actions are not aimed at the Russian people", officials said.

The sanctions freeze any assets that those targeted have in USA jurisdictions and bars Americans from doing business with them.

The list of targets include individuals with close ties to Putin, including Igor Rotenberg and Kirill Shamalov, both major players in Russia's energy sector, and Rosoboroneksport, a state-owned Russian weapons trading company which has been linked to the Syrian government, Russia's key ally in the Middle East.

Last month, the USA targeted 19 Russians and five other entities with sanctions in the first use of the law.

"Certainly the grounds for putting my name on the list of SDNs as provided by US officials are groundless, ridiculous and absurd", he added, using the acronym for Specially Designated Nationals. The lists, required under a law passed past year, were informally seen as lists of potential future sanctions targets, even though the public version of the oligarchs list was merely a reprint of Forbes' list of billionaires in Russian Federation.

The US government also expelled 60 Russian diplomats in response to the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in Britain. And we've urged the administration to go further by, for instance, listing Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism and targeting Putin's wealthy cronies with Treasury sanctions.

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