US sanctions Russian officials, oligarchs, Putin’s megayachts

Among those targeted is also an oligarch who heads a major steel producer, the US Treasury Department said on Thursday.

Artistic director of St. Petersburg House of Music Sergei Roldugin (R), pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L)
St Petersburg House of Music Artistic Director Sergei Roldugin (right), pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), was sanctioned by the United States on Thursday for his ties with the president [File: Ivan Sekretarev/Reuters]

The United States further expanded sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with targets including prominent Russian government officials and business leaders with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Among those designated is an oligarch who heads a major steel producer, a yacht management company, the spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry and a cellist the US Department of the Treasury says acts as a middleman for the Russian leader.

The US will continue “to impose severe costs” on Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday in a statement.

The US state, commerce and treasury departments each issued their own new restrictions, in the latest moves to crack down on those supporting Russia, including more limits on the export of US technology that could help the Russian military.

The US and other Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia since its February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Putin claims the invasion is “a special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies say Putin’s claim is a blatant pretext for a war of aggression.

“Today’s action demonstrates that Treasury can and will go after those responsible for shielding and maintaining these ill-gotten interests,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

“We will continue to enforce our sanctions and expose the corrupt systems by which President Putin and his elites enrich themselves,” Nelson added.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added four megayachts to the ones already sanctioned, including the Russian-flagged Graceful and the Cayman Islands-flagged Olympia.

The Russian president has taken numerous trips on the yachts, including one in the Black Sea with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last year, the Treasury Department said.

Imperial Yachts, a brokerage based in Monaco that allows superyacht owners – including Russian oligarchs – to charter their boats when they are not using them, was also designated.

“When not in use by their owners, superyachts can be offered for charter through businesses such as Imperial Yachts, generating income for the owners, who are in some cases Russia’s oligarchs,” Treasury said.

It also sanctioned an aviation company it said is involved in a scheme to transfer aircraft to an offshore company to avoid sanctions.

The US added Sergei Roldugin, a cellist and conductor already under European Union sanctions for his links to Putin, to its list of sanctioned individuals. The order freezes Roldugin’s US assets and bars Americans from doing business with him.

The State Department designated “God Nisanov, one of the richest men in Europe” and also Evgeny Novitskiy – both close associates of Russian officials.

It also targeted Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, and Alexey Mordashov, one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires, and his family members and companies, including one of Russia’s leading domestic steel producers.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Commerce added 71 parties located in Russia and Belarus to its entity list, effectively cutting off their access to vital technologies, a White House fact sheet said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies