US issues 'Putin list' of Russian politicians, oligarchs

2018-01-31 05:35
President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky, AP)

President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky, AP)

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Washington - The Trump administration late on Monday released a long-awaited list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 "oligarchs" who have flourished during the reign of President Vladimir Putin, fulfilling a demand by Congress that the US punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 US election.

Yet the administration paired that move with a surprising announcement that it had decided not to punish anybody - for now - under new sanctions retaliating for the election-meddling.

Some US lawmakers accused President Donald Trump of giving Russia a free pass, fuelling further questions about whether the president is unwilling to confront America's Cold War foe.

Known informally as the "Putin list", the seven-page unclassified document is a who's who of politically connected Russians in the country's elite class.

The idea, as envisioned by Congress, is to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Putin's tenure just as the US works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically.

State-owned companies

Being on the list doesn't trigger any US sanctions on the individuals, although more than a dozen are already targeted under earlier sanctions.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is among the 114 senior political figures in Russia's government who made the list, along with 42 of Putin's aides, cabinet ministers such as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and top officials in Russia's leading spy agencies, the FSB and GRU.

The CEOs of major state-owned companies, including energy giant Rosneft and Sberbank, are also on the list.

So are 96 wealthy Russians deemed "oligarchs" by the Treasury Department, which said each is believed to have assets totalling $1bn or more.

Some are the most famous of wealthy Russians, among them tycoons Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Prokhorov, who challenged Putin in the 2012 election.

Aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, a figure in the Russia investigation over his ties to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, is included.

The Trump administration had until Monday to issue the list under a law passed in 2017.

After declining to answer questions about it throughout the day on Monday, the Treasury Department released it with little fanfare 23:48.

Even more names, including those of less-senior politicians or businesspeople worth less than $1bn, are on a classified version of the list being provided to Congress, officials said. Drawing on US intelligence, Treasury also finalised a list of at least partially state-owned companies in Russia, but that list, too, was classified and sent only to Congress.

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