The Trump administration plans to impose sanctions on Russian tycoons as early as this week under provisions of a law calling for retaliation against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a U.S. government official said.
Plans call for targeting six to 10 so-called Russian oligarchs, though no firm decision has been made on the number, the official said. The person asked not to be identified discussing the sanctions before they’re announced.
The administration is trying to satisfy pressure from Congress to act on a sanctions law passed last summer, the official said. The U.S. in January identified 210 wealthy Russians, top officials and business leaders for a list required under the law. The targets for the sanctions will be taken from a classified annex to the report, the official said.
President Donald Trump has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats for doing little to punish Russia for interfering in the U.S. election and for being slow to act on the sanctions law. An investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government has cast a shadow over his presidency, though Trump denies the accusation.
Trump’s national security team has pressed for stronger action against Putin following the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. The U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats in a response to the poisoning coordinated with the U.K. and European allies.
The U.S. announced sanctions March 15 on a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” and other Russian citizens and entities Mueller indicted in February for interfering in the U.S. election. That sanctions list also targeted individuals and entities the administration said were involved in cyber-attacks, including the 2017 NotPetya attack, described as the most damaging in history.
Trump’s outgoing national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, publicly called for a tougher line against Russia in speech Tuesday, saying in the face of Putin’s increasing aggression around the world, “We have failed to impose sufficient costs.”
Asked about the planned sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday: “The phrase ‘Russian oligarchs’ is considered inappropriate. The time when there were oligarchs in Russia passed long ago, there are no oligarchs in Russia.”