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US sanctions close in around Russian president's inner circle
The United States struck President Vladimir Putin's inner circle Friday, imposing sanctions on seven of Russia's most influential oligarchs and 17 senior government officials, stoking a diplomatic crisis some have dubbed a new Cold War.
This is not the first round of sanctions against Russia but it is the most aggressive step taken by US President Donald Trump's administration.
The latest measures were taken to punish Russia for its actions in recent months, and even years.
"The United States is taking these actions in response to the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity across the world," a senior administration official told reporters.
"This included their occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in eastern Ukraine, support for the Assad regime in Syria ... and ongoing malicious cyberactivity," the senior official said.
"But most importantly this is a response to Russia's continued attacks to subvert Western democracies."
Trump's administration targeted seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian officials and the state-owned arms export company Rosoboronexport.
Among those on the list are:
- Metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, described as operating for the Russian government;
- State-owned energy giant Gazprom boss Alexei Miller;
- Tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, under investigation in France for alleged tax evasion;
- Kirill Shamalov, a billionaire reported to be Putin's son-in-law.
Any assets they hold in areas under US jurisdiction will now be frozen.
Russia's foreign ministry promised a "tough response" and said the United States had joined the "enemies of the market economy and honest and free competition" as they "use administrative methods to eliminate competitors" such as Rosoboronexport.
The measures come as tensions rise between the United Kingdom and Russia following the poisoning of a former double agent and his daughter on British soil.
Salisbury hospital said on Friday that Sergei Skripal is no longer in critical condition following a nerve agent attack on 4 March. His daughter Yulia has told police she is recovering well.
The attack led the United States to expel 60 Russian diplomats and Moscow has responded in kind.