US targets former Olympic gymnast, steel producer with fresh Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday (Aug 2) imposed fresh sanctions on Russia, targeting Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast the US Treasury described as having a close relationship with President Vladimir Putin, and Russian companies as part of Washington’s latest response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Treasury said in a statement that Kabaeva heads the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin group of media organisations. Putin has denied they are romantically linked.

The latest round of sanctions also targets Publichnoe Aktsionernoe Obschestvo Magnitogorskiy Metallurgicheskiy Kombinat (MMK), one of the world’s largest steel producers, as well as the majority owner and chairman of the board of directors, Viktor Rashnikov, the Treasury said.

The Treasury said MMK is one of Russia’s largest taxpayers and provides a substantial source of revenue to the Russian government.

Washington also designated two of its subsidiaries, Russia-based Investitsionnaya Kompaniya MMK-FINANS and Turkey-based MMK Metalurji Sanayi Ticaret Ve Liman Isletmeciligi Anonim Sirketi.

On Monday, trade minister Denis Manturov said Russia will consider purchasing and stockpiling metals to support domestic steelmakers hit by Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

The US State Department on Tuesday also said it was placing visa restrictions on 893 Russian officials and members of the military for playing a role in actions against Ukraine, as well as 31 foreign officials from unnamed nations over support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The department was also imposing sanctions on 24 Russian defence and technology companies in an effort to “further isolate Russia’s defence and high-technology industries and limit their contributions to Moscow’s war machine,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.

Three Russian businessmen the State Department accused of being “Putin enablers” were also targeted.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday’s actions.

“The United States will not waver in its support for the brave people of Ukraine and will continue to promote accountability for President Putin and his cronies whose actions have caused so much suffering and destruction in Ukraine,” Blinken said.

Among the Russian elites targeted in Tuesday’s move was Andrey Guryev, described by the Treasury as a close associate of Putin who formerly served in the Russian government and the founder of PhosAgro, a Russian chemical company. PhosAgro was not designated.

The Treasury also targeted a Cayman Islands-flagged yacht, the Alfa Nero, reportedly bought by Guryev for US$120 million in 2014, according to the statement.

Washington also cracked down on what it said were sanctions evasion attempts, designating a financial institution owned by the Russian Federal Agency for State Property Management, Joint Stock Company Promising Industrial and Infrastructure Technologies.

The United States and its allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions, including targeting the country’s largest lenders and Putin, since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February in the biggest assault on a European state since World War II.