US publication of ‘Russia list’ is a hostile step: Vladimir Putin

US publication of ‘Russia list’ is a hostile step: Vladimir Putin

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has called a long-awaited US list of Russian businessmen and officials who have flourished under his presidency a “hostile step” that harms relations between Moscow and Washington.
The Trump administration’s so-called Putin List featured 114 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs”, fulfilling a demand by Congress that the US should punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 US election.
The section on political leaders includes the entire Kremlin administration and the cabinet, as well as other top officials.

Speaking in Moscow, Mr Putin, who is running for president at the March election, joked that he felt “slighted” that he himself was not on the list.

Despite calling it a “hostile step”, Mr Putin said Moscow does not want to make the situation worse, and is eager to “develop the relations as much as our American counterparts are willing to”. The list had led to fears among rich Russians that it could lead to US sanctions, or being informally blacklisted in the global financial system.

However, the US surprised observers by announcing that it had decided not to punish anyone under the new sanctions, at least for now. Some US representatives have accused President Donald Trump of giving Russia a free pass, fuelling further questions about whether the president is unwilling to confront Moscow.

Russia hawks in Congress had pushed the administration to include certain names, while Russian businessmen hired lobbyists to keep them off.

In the end, the list of 114 Russian politicians released just before a Monday evening deadline included the whole of Mr Putin’s administration, as listed by the Kremlin on its website, plus the Russian cabinet, all top law enforcement officials and chief executives of the main state-controlled companies.

A companion list of 96 “oligarchs” is a carbon copy of the Forbes magazine’s Russian billionaires’ rankings, only arranged alphabetically. It makes no distinction between those who are tied to the Kremlin and those who are not.

Some of the people on the list have long fallen out with the Kremlin or are widely considered to have built their fortunes independently of the Russian government.

The idea of the seven-page unclassified document, as envisioned by Congress, was to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Mr Putin’s tenure, as the United States works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically.

Every top Russian official except for Mr Putin is on the list of 114 senior political figures. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is on it, along with all ministers from the Russian government, all 42 of Putin’s advisers, and top law enforcement officials. The CEOs of all major state-owned companies, including energy giant Rosneft and Sberbank, are also on the list.

The oligarchs list includes tycoons Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Prokhorov, who challenged Putin in the 2012 election. Aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, a figure in the Russia investigation over his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is included.

Less obvious names on the list include Sergei Galitsky, founder of retail chain Magnit, and Arkady Volozh, founder and CEO of the search engine Yandex, and bankers Oleg Tinkov and Ruben Vardanyan. They have been lauded as self-made men who built their successful businesses without any government support.

The list shows that the United States views the entire Russian government as enemies, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov – himself on the list – told reporters.

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