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Treasury slaps sanctions on Russian oligarchs

Vladimir Putin walks through golden doors at the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Vladimir Putin in Grand Kremlin Palace. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury Department is sanctioning 7 Russian oligarchs and 12 companies the oligarchs own or control for their “ongoing and increasingly brazen malign” activity, a senior administration official told reporters Friday.

Why it matters: The move targets Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including his son-in-law, and represents the toughest sanctions against Russia since Trump took office. One senior administration official said the goal is to show that “the elite are not immune for accountability for the actions of the Russian government." It comes as tensions between Russia and the West are rising — fast.

Reality check: There are concerns the Trump administration dragged its feet on targeting Putin’s inner circle, giving them time to restructure their U.S. holdings.

The sanctions come in response to ongoing malicious cyber activities, attempts to subvert Western democracies, Russia’s invasion of Crimea and violence in Ukraine, as well as its assistance to the Syrian regime in bombing its civilians, the administration official said.

  • In addition to the oligarchs and their businesses, the U.S. is also sanctioning 17 Russian government officials; several energy companies, a state-owned weapons trading company with longstanding ties to the Syrian government, and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.
  • The effect: Those sanctioned will have their U.S. assets frozen, and U.S. individuals will be barred from dealing with them. Americans who knowingly try to help those being listed could also face sanctions.

One familiar name: Oleg Deripaska is targeted in these sanctions. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort started working for Deripaska in 2006. Manafort reportedly sent an email to Deripaska asking if he wanted private briefings on the campaign.

Timing: Last month the U.S. announced sanctions against Russian cyber actors for meddling in the U.S. election.

Go deeper: Meet Putin's oligarchs.

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Pompeo plans to visit Jerusalem next week

Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mike Pompeo, who looks set to be confirmed as Secretary of State today, is expected to arrive in Jerusalem next week as part of his first trip abroad in his new post, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Pompeo's decision to include Israel in his first trip abroad as Secretary of State is important because his predecessor Rex Tillerson visited Israel only once when he accompanied President Trump in his May 2017 visit. Tillerson never came to Israel on his own and had a very minor role in the U.S.-Israel relations during his year in office.

Shannon Vavra 3 hours ago
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It’s not just nukes: What the key players want from North Korea

Kim and Xi meet in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua/Ju Peng via Getty Images

With North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in sitting down for talks, and a summit between Kim and President Trump looming, denuclearization is at the top of mind in Washington — but it's not the only issue on the table.

Why it matters: Trump and Kim will have to balance a number of competing interests if they want to reach any sort of lasting accord.