A long-awaited US list of Russian businessmen and officials who have flourished under Vladimir Putin's presidency appears to be mainly a list of people in Russian government, along with 96 "oligarchs" ranked by Forbes, the AP reports. The list, which features 210 names total and was ordered by Congress in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, had induced fear among rich Russians that it could lead to US sanctions or being informally blacklisted in the global financial system. But the US surprised observers by announcing that it had decided not to punish anybody under the new sanctions, at least for now. Some US lawmakers accused President Trump of giving Russia a free pass, fueling further questions about whether the president is unwilling to confront Moscow.
- Who's on it: The list of 114 Russians released just before a Monday evening deadline included the whole of Putin's administration (including PM Dmitry Medvedev), 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 Forbes magazine's Russian billionaires' rankings, only arranged alphabetically. The BBC reports the "fact it was released about 10 minutes before midnight may reflect Mr. Trump's coolness towards it." USA Today specifies it was released 12 minutes before the deadline.
- Are they all close to the Kremlin? No. The list makes no distinction between those who are tied to the Kremlin and those who are not. The oligarchs listed 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. Some billionaires on the list have fallen out with the Kremlin entirely, like the Ananyev brothers, who fled the country last year and vowed to sue the Russian government after their bank was declared bankrupt.
- There's another list: Officials said more names, including those of less-senior politicians and businesspeople worth less than $1 billion, are on a classified version of the list being provided to Congress. Drawing on US intelligence, the Treasury Department also finalized a list of at least partially state-owned companies in Russia, but that list, too, was classified and sent only to Congress.
- The point: The idea of the seven-page unclassified document, as envisioned by Congress, was to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Putin's tenure, as the United States works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically. The list's release was likely to at least partially defuse the disappointment from some US lawmakers that Trump's administration opted against targeting anyone with new Russia sanctions that took effect Monday.
- About those sanctions: Under the same law that authorized the "Putin list," the government was required to slap sanctions on anyone doing "significant" business with people linked to Russia's defense and intelligence agencies, using a blacklist the US released in October. But State Department officials said the threat of sanctions had been deterrent enough, and that "sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed."
- Russian reaction: The AP reports Putin called it a "hostile step," but joked that he felt "slighted" that he himself was not on the list. USA Today quotes him as saying, "We expected this list and I won’t hide that we were ready to take tit-for-tat steps, rather serious ones, which could reduce our relations to zero. But we will refrain from these steps now."
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