Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

The United States slapped a new round of sanctions on Russia on Friday, targeting Russian business elite and senior government officials, a move that may further damage the already soured ties between Washington and Moscow.

The U.S. Treasury announced that it has imposed sanctions on seven Russian business leaders, who were referred to as “oligarchs,” along with 12 companies owned or controlled by them. The blacklist also included 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused the Russian government in the statement of engaging in “a range of malign activity” around the world, including its involvement in the Ukrainian and Syrian issues, and “attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.”

The sanctions will freeze any assets the individuals or entities punished hold in the United States and prohibit U.S. citizens from conducting business with them. The punitive act was also believed to discourage international financial institutions from doing business with persons and entities on the list. The Russian Embassy in the United States shot back on Friday by claiming that the new sanctions targeted Russian business leaders “who refused to play by Washington’s rules.” “The US made another erroneous step to destroy the freedom of entrepreneurship and competition, integration processes in the world economy,” said the embassy in a statement.

The latest move was among a series of the Trump administration’s confrontations against “Russian activities that threaten our institutions, our interests, or our allies,” said the White House in a statement on Friday. On March 15, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals, including Russian intelligence services, for their alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and engagement in “malicious” cyber attacks. At the end of January, Washington published a list of Russian officials and business tycoons eligible for sanctions for alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential elections. The list incorporated 114 senior Russian political personages and 96 “oligarchs.” So far the Trump administration has punished 189 Russian-related people and entities with sanctions under various programs, said a senior U.S. government official on the condition of anonymity at a briefing on Friday.

The new sanctions were seen as another blow on the already sinking ties between Washington and Moscow. In March, the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle in a concerted action with Britain and other Western nations over a poisoning case involving a former Russian spy. Washington’s actions have been met with countermeasures from Russia, which categorically denies these allegations and demands solid evidence.Meanwhile, Trump has kept from launching from direct verbal attack against Moscow over the poisoning attack.

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