The Trump administration released late Monday a list comprised by 116 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs” who have flourished under Russian President Vladimir Putin, in order to satisfy the Congress demand that the US punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election.
The main idea of the list, as envisioned by Congress, was to “name-and-shame” those who seem to benefit the most during Putin’s tenure, while at the same time the government is attempting to isolate Russia diplomatically and economically.
However, the list was accompanied by the surprising announcement that, for now at least, the White House would not impose sanctions on anybody on that list, although there are certain people already targeted by earlier sanctions. The announcement caused immediate backlash by some US lawmakers who accused US President Donald Trump of giving Russia a free pass and raised more questions about his unwillingness to confront Moscow.
Among the names of the list, figure top Russian officials such as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov along with the heads of Russians intelligence agencies the FSB and the GRU. As far as the 96 “oligarchs” are concerned it is believed that each possesses assets worth more than $ 1 billion, including tycoons such as Roman Abramovich.
The seven-page unclassified document was accompanied by two other classified lists, which were provided to Congress, and include less-senior politicians or businesspeople worth less than $1 billion.
The release of the list did not provoke a comment by Moscow or the Russian Embassy in Washington as of now.
The list was comprised after a relevant law was passed last year, and the administration’s deadline was set for Monday. According to the law, the list was supposed to trigger sanctions against everyone included, but the administration decided it didn’t need to penalize anyone, even though several countries have had multibillion-dollar arms deals with Russia in the works.
State Department officials commented that the fear of sanctions was a potent deterrent and that there was no need to impose sanctions on anyone.
The list comes at a time when the infamous “Russia probe” is receiving a lot of attention, as the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, disregarding the opposition from the US Justice Department, voted to release a classified memo that purports to show improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation. Many Republicans, along with Donald Trump, were pushing to declassify the memo, suggesting that that some in the Justice Department and FBI have conspired against the president.Republicans said they are confident that the release won’t harm national security. They also said they would not release the underlying intelligence that informed the memo.