U.S. Adds Russians Indicted by Mueller to a Sanctions List

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. broadened punitive action against Russia over its interference in the 2016 election, listing all 25 Russian people and companies indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February and July to a sanctions list in the effort to deter further meddling.

Also among the 33 targets announced Thursday was the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary organization owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who’s known as “Putin’s Cook” and is among the Mueller defendants. Anyone who does business with those on the list faces the possibility of sanctions from the U.S.

The State Department announced the moves as part of the Trump administration’s new push to enforce the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which targets Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. Congress passed the law last year in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, cyber-attacks and election interference.

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have criticized the administration for not using the authority granted under CAATSA to punish Russia, suggesting that President Donald Trump was blocking such action in a bid to improve ties with President Vladimir Putin. While top officials in Trump’s administration have sharply condemned Russian interference, the president has often dismissed Mueller’s investigation as an anti-Trump “witch hunt.”

Chinese Target

The people named on the sanctions list released by the State Department appear in the same order they appear on the two indictments, from Feb. 16 and July 13. Those indicted in February already had been placed under sanctions.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. sanctioned a Chinese individual, Li Shangfu, for allegedly engaging in the purchase of Russian combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missiles, in violation of U.S. sanctions.

“Today’s actions are not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of any country, but rather to impose costs on Russia in response to its interference in the United States election process, its unacceptable behavior in eastern Ukraine, and other malign activities,” the State Department said in a fact sheet.

An administration official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said by targeting arms sales the U.S. was trying to choke off a key source of Russian revenue, adding that the U.S. had probably halted several billion dollars in arms transfers just by maintaining the threat of CAATSA sanctions against Russia.

Turkey and India are among countries weighing the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia despite U.S. opposition.

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