The United States struck President Vladimir Putin's inner circle Friday, imposing sanctions on seven of Russia's most influential oligarchs and stoking a diplomatic crisis some have dubbed a new Cold War.
Washington officials as well as the US media, however, have repeatedly claimed that the new sanctions are aimed exclusively at "Russian oligarchs and [government] elites, who profit from this corrupt system", as it was put by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The latest U.S. sanctions indeed targeted some major Russian energy companies, such as En+ or Eurosibenergo as well as the United Company RUSAL, which is the world's second-largest aluminum company by primary production output.
In parallel, and to Trump's fury, former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller has been empowered as a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between the president's campaign and Russian Federation.
The sanctions, according to the Treasury, are not a response to anything in particular, but rather what they consider Russia's "malign activities across the world".
The sanctions freeze any assets that those targeted have in USA jurisdictions and bars Americans from doing business with them.
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No measures of pressure will derail Russia from its chosen path and they only demonstrate the inability of the United States to achieve its goals and consolidate the Russian society, it said.
The politicians noted in the joint statement that Russia's government has authorized an attack on the British territory, which is a violation of the worldwide law.
But the move is likely to provoke a strong response from the Kremlin, which has expressed increasing exasperation with Washington's policies under the Trump administration despite hopes that the president may take a softer approach toward Moscow. "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities".
Numerous targets are individuals and businesses associated with Russia's energy sector, including those affiliated with state-owned Gazprom. But Leonid Slutsky, who chairs the foreign relations committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said there was "no sensible reasons or grounds" for the USA actions.
The US also has punished Russian Federation for other troubling activity, including its alleged involvement in the poisoning an ex-spy with a military-grade nerve agent in Britain. But the administration said it would give guidance to Americans who may now have business with them about how to wind down that business and avoid running afoul of the sanctions.
The list also includes Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with alleged ties to Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort who is facing money laundering charges, and banker Sergei Gorkov, who was dispatched by Russia in December 2016 to meet Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower. It also denounced the USA move as "yet another misguided step that [leads] to the destruction of free enterprise, competition and integration in the world economy." . In tandem with European allies, the Trump administration expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle.