United States imposes sanctions on 24 Russians close to Vladimir Putin

039;Unfair competition': Sanctions really aim to serve US economic interests – Russia tech giant

The United States imposed sanctions against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials, striking at associates of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington's most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for a range of activities, including alleged meddling in the 2016 USA election.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites", US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on April 6.

The United States has imposed a new round of sanctions against Russian business leaders, further escalating bilateral tensions and prompting a response from Russia's embassy. According to Washington, Moscow is to be punished for "a range of malign activity around the globe", including its reunification with Crimea, involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, support of President Bashar Assad in Syria, as well as "attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities".

The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. "[Its only] desire is to ensure by all means that USA global hegemony remains, including pressuring countries that conduct an independent line and speak [with] their own voice, unlike Washington's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies", Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

While Russia has denied any involvement, the attack is seen by both the United States and key allies as part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive action by Putin, which has included military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, ongoing support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and interference in the democratic elections in the U.S. and Europe. Assets of those targeted in the United States have been blocked, and all US -based entities are forbidden from doing business with them.

Yet even as it rolled out the new penalties, Mr Trump's administration left open the possibility of "a good relationship with Russia" in the future. Many other targets were associated with Russia's energy sector, including parts of Gazprom.

Senior administration officials yesterday stressed that the sanctions were not targeted at the Russian people, but were meant to cripple the finances of those elites.

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

"We would like to advise Washington to get rid of illusions that we can be spoken to with the language of sanctions", the statement continued.

Sergei Skripal is recovering in hospital, but officials in Britain and its ally the United States say he was poisoned by "Novichok", a nerve agent they say only Russian intelligence could have deployed.

Also on the list is Suleiman Kerimov, who is one of Russia's richest men.

There was no immediate reaction from Russia's government.

The oligarchs were not immediately sanctioned then, but the existence of the list - and a more detailed classified annex - created uncertainty over global business dealings with some Russian sectors.

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