The United States hit seven Russian oligarchs and 17 Russian government officials with sanctions on Friday for what it called "malign activity" around the world, as the Trump administration tried to show the president is taking tough action to stand up to Moscow. A dozen Russian companies owned by the oligarchs were also targeted, along with a state-owned arms-dealing company and a subsidiary bank, the Treasury Department said. Senior Trump administration officials cast the penalties as part of a concerted and ongoing effort by the US to push back Vladimir Putin's government, emphasizing that since Trump took office last year, the US has punished 189 Russian-related people and entities with sanctions, reports the AP.
Rather than punishing Russia for one specific action, the new sanctions are in response to "the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern" of bad behavior, said the officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. The officials ticked through a list of activities they said had prompted the US to act, including Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, cyber-hacking, and attempts to subvert Western democracy. Many of the targets are individuals and businesses associated with Russia's energy sector, including those affiliated with state-owned Gazprom. Officials said the goal was to show that those who have benefited financially from Putin's position of power are fair game for US punishments, noting that many of those being sanctioned are closely tied to Putin himself.