I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The way to pressure Russian Vladimir Putin is to hit those closest to him so they can’t enjoy the luxuries of the West they claim to hate so much.

President Donald Trump’s administration did just that with a new round of sanctions on several oligarchs and government officials. This includes Putin’s son-in-law and also Alexey Miller, the main man at Russia’s Gazprom.

The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on seven oligarchs along with the 12 companies they own or control, 17 government officials, and Russian-owned weapons trading company:

“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities. Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

Today’s actions are pursuant to authority provided under Executive Order (E.O.) 13661 and E.O. 13662, authorities codified by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), as well as E.O. 13582. These actions follow the Department of the Treasury’s issuance of the CAATSA Section 241 report in late January 2018. In the Section 241 report, Treasury identified senior Russian government officials and oligarchs. Today’s action targets a number of the individuals listed in the Section 241 report, including those who benefit from the Putin regime and play a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities.

These Russians make their money in Russia, but often spread their wealth in the West in places like London and New York City. Sanctions will “freeze any assets that those targeted have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from doing business with them.”

Trump has said that he has been tougher on Russia than others and he may have a point. Since he took office, his administration “has punished 189 Russian-related people and entities with sanctions.

Former Treasury official Elizabeth Rosenberg said the sanctions “communicate seriousness and really up ante with Russia” and described them as meaningful since they target Russia’s lucrative energy sector.

Sanctions List

I honestly never thought I’d see Alexey Miller, the Chairman of the Management Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of state-owned Gazprom, which is Russia’s largest company and the top natural gas producer in the world.

Miller has been a crony of Putin’s since 1991 when he worked with Putin on the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor’s Office under Putin. The president appointed Miller as Gazprom’s CEO in 2002.

Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s son-in-law, landed on the list since he works in the energy sector:

Shamalov married Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova in February 2013 and his fortunes drastically improved following the marriage; within 18 months, he acquired a large portion of shares of Sibur, a Russia-based company involved in oil and gas exploration, production, processing, and refining. A year later, he was able to borrow more than one $1 billion through a loan from Gazprombank, a state-owned entity subject to sectoral sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13662. That same year, long-time Putin associate Gennady Timchenko, who is himself designated pursuant to E.O. 13661, sold an additional 17 percent of Sibur’s shares to Shamalov. Shortly thereafter, Kirill Shamalov joined the ranks of the billionaire elite around Putin.

This is another blow to Shamalov because he reportedly separated from Tikhonova. I do not know if they have officially divorced yet. Bloomberg reported at the time that four people spoke to them about the situation, which caused Shamalov to lose a large chunk of money as punishment for the split:

Then Sibur announced last April that Shamalov had sold the shares he bought from Timchenko to Mikhelson. Though the details of the deal and the reasoning behind it were never disclosed, a person familiar with the transaction said Shamalov made “zero” from the sale because he was only allowed to hold those shares in a kind of trust as a Putin family member. That ownership privilege ended when the marriage did, three of the people said.

The list also includes Oleg Deripaska, a businessman with links to Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort:

Oleg Deripaska is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13661 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as pursuant to E.O. 13662 for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy. Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state. He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries. Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller made Manafort, who has well known ties to Russia, a major point of interest in his Russian collusion investigation. Manafort is under indictment for money laundering.

Manafort and Deripaska became friends “in the mid-2000s, when Manafort was a consultant for a Ukraine-based oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, an associate of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.” Reports claimed that “signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska in 2005, a report that Deripaska denied and later contested in a lawsuit against the AP.” The friendship went downhill during this decade and “Deripaska had filed a petition in a Cayman Islands court accusing Manafort and Gates of taking $19 million intended for investment then failing to account for the funds or return them.”

Missing Ones

I also think a huge hit to Russia would be sanctions on Gazprom and Rosneft, which is Russia’s big oil producer. I doubt that would ever happen since a lot of American companies do business with them. ExxonMobile has entered into quite a few contracts with Rosneft to drill in Russia’s Arctic Circle.

Gazprom’s oil arm Gazprom Neft PJSC received sanctions in 2014 along with Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin, who is often described as Putin’s right hand man. The European Union sanctioned Rosneft back in 2017.

ExxonMobile backed out of a few contracts with Rosneft in February 2018.


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