By Daphne Psaledakis and Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on over 120 targets to squeeze Russia for its war in Ukraine, pursuing entities linked to state-held energy company Rosatom and firms based in partner nations like Turkey in a sign of stepped-up enforcement.
The sanctions, imposed by the Treasury and State departments in concert with Britain, hit entities and individuals in over 20 nations and jurisdictions, including a Russian private military company, a China-based firm and a Russian-owned bank in Hungary.
The Treasury said it imposed sanctions on Russian financial facilitators and sanctions evaders around the world, including in the United Arab Emirates and China-based people and firms.
The actions reflect an effort by the U.S.
government both to broaden the web of U.S. sanctions placed on Moscow since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and to squelch efforts to circumvent them.
One of the main targets was Russian billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov, whom the Treasury described as having “at his disposal a wide network of businesses in financial safe havens and family members through which to conduct financial transactions, enabling him to potentially circumvent sanctions.”
The State Department said it targeted the businessman’s company, USM Holdings, and multiple firms under it.
The company said it regarded the actions as “unjust and unfounded,” saying Usmanov, who has previously been subject to U.S.
sanctions, had stepped down from business activity long ago and did not take part in management.
“The United States will continue to take action against Russia and those supporting its war in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, saying it was in keeping with the Group of 7´s “commitment to impose severe consequences on third country actors who support Russia’s war in Ukraine.”
In addition to trying to choke the Russian economy, the United States and its allies have provided extensive weaponry to Ukraine in its 13-month effort to fend off the Russian invasion.
PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY
Among Wednesday’s targets was the Patriot private military company, which the State Department said was associated with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and competed with the Wagner mercenary group.
Also targeted was China HEAD Aerospace Technology Co, a China-based satellite image reseller that the State Department said supplied satellite imagery of locations in Ukraine to entities affiliated with Wagner and its head, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Treasury also targeted King-Pai Technology HK Co, Ltd, which it said is a China-based supplier for multiple entities in Russia’s military-industrial complex.
Five entities and an individual that are part of Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom were also targeted in an effort to constrain the company, the State Department said, accusing Rosatom of using energy exports to exert political and economic pressure on its customers.
Washington has not imposed sanctions on Rosatom itself.
The United States also imposed sanctions on at least four Turkey-based entities it said violated American export controls and helped Russia’s war effort, in the biggest U.S.
enforcement action in Turkey since the invasion.
Eurasia Group analyst Clayton Allen said sanctioning Turkish firms signaled U.S. partner nations were not immune from U.S. action.
“Crossing this threshold is an important development,” he said, saying the commitment to enforcement even if it causes friction with partners signals a U.S.
“expectation that the current sanctions structure will endure for the long term.”
Among the companies organized under Usmanov’s USM Holdings that Washington targeted were Russian mobile operator Megafon; Russia’s biggest iron ore producer, Metalloinvest, including Metalloinvest’s Swiss-based and UAE-based subsidiaries; the operator of the Russia-based Udokan copper project; and Usmanov’s Uzbekistan-based cement producer Akhangarancement.
The inclusion of Megafon, one of Russia’s big four telecoms operators, marks a shift as Western sanctions have so far stopped short of targeting Russia’s telecoms infrastructure.
Megafon’s press office said it viewed the sanctions as “an unfair and illegal step that has no basis,” adding it intended to challenge them.
Treasury also said it imposed sanctions on Budapest-based International Investment Bank (IIB), a bank with majority-Russian ownership that some European countries have already cut ties with, and three current or former executives.
“IIB’s presence in Budapest enables Russia to increase its intelligence presence in Europe, opens the door for the Kremlin´s malign influence activities in Central Europe and the Western Balkans, and could serve as a mechanism for corruption and illicit finance, including sanctions violations,” it said.
The Treasury also targeted Sequoia Treuhand Trust Reg, a Liechtenstein-based trust services company, haber oku saying its clients include Russian elites such as Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul; Writing by Daphne Psaledakis and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)