The US announced new sanctions against Russia on Monday, and the list includes seven Russian government officials and 17 companies that are tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The Russin officials sanctioned were Oleg Belavantsev, Sergei Chemezov, Dmitry Kozak, Evgeniy Murov, Aleksei Pushkov, Igor Sechin, Vyacheslav Volodin.
The Russian companies the Treasury Department targeted were InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank, Stroygazmontazh (SGM Group), Volga Group, Transoil, Aquanika (Russkoye Vremya LLC), Sakhatrans LLC, Avia Group LLC, Avia Group Nord LLC, Stroytransgaz Holding, Stroytransgaz Group, Stroytransgaz OJSC, Stroytransgaz-M LLC, Straoytransgaz-M LLC, Stroytransgaz LLC, The Limited Liability Company Investment Company Abros, CJSC Zest, and JSB Sobinbank.
As Simon Shuster of Time points out, the sanctions are meant to hit Putin personally. The people on the list are his friends dating back to his St. Petersburg days in the early 90s. Putin makes sure these people are able to enjoy the comforts of the West.
Many of them send their children to study in the West. They keep their fortunes in Western banks. They ski in the Alps, sunbathe in Miami and go shopping in Milan. All of these privileges are at risk after Putin’s adventure in Crimea, and if faced with a choice between keeping their wealth or supporting Putin, many of them will at least begin to question their loyalties, says Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Russia’s Prime Minister during Putin’s first term as President.
“This is a cold shower for Putin,” Kasyanov tells TIME. “I saw a few of the sanctioned lawmakers the other day, and they were very worried. They did not see this coming. They’ve been named and shamed in front of the entire world by this blacklist.”
The biggest name on the list is Sechin, who is referred to as “Putin’s lieutenant.” He worked with Putin in St. Petersburg, and when Putin left for Moscow, Sechin joined him there. He is the President and Chairman of Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft. According to the Treasury Department, Rosneft is “Russia’s leading petroleum company, and one of the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company.” Rosneft is closely connected to ExxonMobil and British Petroleum (BP), both of which have a strong presence in the US.
On April 10, BP said they would use their influence to attempt to diffuse the tensions between the West and Russia. BP holds a 20% stake in Rosneft. After the sanctions were announced, a BP spokesman said the company intends to remain a partner with Rosneft. Unfortunately, this could complicate their relationship in the US, as the company could face sanctions if they decide to do business with anyone on a US sanctions list.
Sechin is also believed to be responsible for the destruction of Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was one of Russia’s richest men. It is believed Sechin put together the lawsuit against Khodorkovsky in 2003 because after Khodorkovsky was convicted of fraud and tax evasion, Rosneft picked up the most lucrative parts of Yukos. That made Rosneft “the world’s top listed oil firm by output.” Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Putin in February after 10 years in jail.
Other groups are tied to Gennady Timchenko and bothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg. The three men were sanctioned by the US in late March after Putin officially annexed Crimea from Ukraine. In fact, concerts in Finland by Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake might be in trouble because the Rotenberg brothers own the venue.
Russia responded to the sanctions by threatening the US and European Union.
“We will, of course, respond,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. “We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington.”
He provided no further details but stressed that Russia had a “broad range” of options. Ryabkov said Washington’s measures would only escalate tensions around the culturally splintered ex-Soviet state.
“We are disgusted with the statement issued by the White House press secretary,” said Ryabkov.
“Every word used by the White House press secretary in the statement confirms that the United States has completely lost touch with reality and is leading things toward an escalation of the crisis.”
The EU did not release new sanctions but said there will be 15 new names added to the growing list of sanctions and that it could be released on Tuesday morning.