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us sanctions on russia

The US has hit a dozen Russian and Chinese companies and individuals with sanctions over helping North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The move comes after the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, voted for further sanctions against North Korea.

The US Treasury said its actions would “increase pressure” on North Korea, but the move has angered China.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised North Korea for “a level of restraint” in recent days.

He said: “We have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution.”

This, Rex Tillerson said, could pave the way for talks between the two sides “sometime in the near future”.

Photo AP

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The US Office of Foreign Assets Control designated 10 companies and six individuals in its sanctions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “[The] Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system.”

The action means American individuals and companies are no longer permitted to do business with these companies.

China responded swiftly, calling on the US to “immediately correct its mistake” of punishing its companies.

A series of missile tests by North Korea in recent months – along with its repeated threats to carry out a sixth test of a nuclear device – have increased tensions between Pyongyang and the US.

North Korea has been angered, as it is every year, by scheduled US-South Korea military drills, and threatened to launch missiles near the US island of Guam in the South Pacific.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, threatened the isolated regime with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

In North Korea’s latest propaganda video, released on August 22, an image of President Trump is shown at a cemetery which is apparently meant to be in Guam.

Vice-president Mike Pence is also pictured engulfed in flames.

Rex Tillerson’s comments on August 22 appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone.

The secretary of state said North Korea had not launched any missiles since the UN unilaterally imposed new sanctions, and had “demonstrated some level of restraint that we’ve not seen in the past”.

“We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for – that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue,” he said.

However, speaking at UN-backed disarmament conference in Geneva on August 22, a North Korean diplomat insisted that the weapons program was “justifiable and a legitimate option for self-defense”.

He said: “As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat remains unchallenged, the DPRK will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table or step back an inch from the path it took to bolster the national nuclear force.”

The House has voted to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, despite President Donald Trump objecting to the legislation.

Senior Russian officials will be targeted in retaliation for alleged Moscow interference in the US 2016 election.

The bill is likely to complicate President Trump’s hopes of improving relations with Russia.

Russia said the vote could destroy the possibility of “normalizing relations” between the two countries.

The bill needs to be passed through the Senate before it can be sent on to President Trump to be signed.

The White House says it is reviewing the bill, and it is unclear whether President Trump will veto it.

“While the president supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

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Russia’s relationship with President Trump has dogged his first six months in office, amid allegations Moscow interfered to help him get elected.

Donald Trump has also piled pressure on his attorney general over the Russia inquiry. He has publicly labeled Jeff Sessions “weak” and said he was “disappointed” in Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation.

Image NBC News

The legislation, which passed by 419 to three, was described by House Speaker Paul Ryan as a sanctions package that “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe”.

The sanctions on Russia were drawn up in part to further punish its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. If passed, they would:

  • Penalize companies, including those in Europe, that contribute to Russian energy development, affecting companies involved the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany;
  • Shorten the duration of loans to Russian banks and Russian oil and gas companies;
  • Freeze assets of state-owned mining and railway companies;
  • Codify existing sanctions to make them more difficult to lift in the future;
  • Stop President Donald Trump being able to singlehandedly ease the sanctions.

The US already has a range of sanctions in place against Russian individuals and companies over Crimea.

At the end of last year, following claims of election hacking, then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the US.

The bill will also see fresh sanctions against North Korea and Iran over ballistic missile tests.

However, the new measures against Russia have been criticized in Europe. On July 26, a spokesman for the Germany foreign ministry expressed concern, saying US politicians were conducting industrial policy under the guise of sanctions, according to Reuters.

This version of the legislation still needs to be approved by the Senate, but it is not yet clear when it will consider the bill.

However, if it passes through the Senate mostly intact, the bill would provide a headache for President Trump, who has signaled a more conciliatory approach towards Moscow.

If the two chambers pass similar but slightly different bills, a committee will draw up a compromise version for approval.

Once both House and Senate have approved a bill, it goes to the president to be signed into law.

President Trump could veto the bill, but in doing so would fuel suspicion that he is too supportive of the Kremlin, correspondents say.

The bill has widespread support from both major parties in both Houses – making a veto a potentially unpopular political move.

Additionally, a presidential veto can be ignored if two thirds of both the House and Senate vote to override the president.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”

The Kremlin continues to insist it did not interfere in the US elections. One Russian newspaper has described the latest sanctions as “punishment, without a crime”.


Russia is threatening to expel about 30 US diplomats and seize US state property in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions, local officials confirm.

The threat came from Russian foreign ministry sources, quoted by the daily Izvestia. Other Russian officials have made similar statements recently.

In December 2016, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two intelligence compounds.

The measures were a response to alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Russia was already under US sanctions.

Former President Barack Obama acted against Russia after US intelligence sources had accused Russian state agents of hacking into Democratic Party computers to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of the Obama sanctions with President Donald Trump when they met in Hamburg last week, Izvestia reported.

Meanwhile, the Trump team is under investigation over alleged Russian collusion during last year’s presidential campaign. Russia has strongly denied interfering in the election.

In addition to expelling 35 Russian diplomats from Washington and San Francisco, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on nine entities and individuals including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence agencies. The US closed Russian intelligence compounds in New York and Maryland.

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President Putin refrained from tit-for-tat retaliation – unlike in previous diplomatic spats.

Russia says President Donald Trump presented “no plan to resolve the crisis” when the issue was raised in Hamburg.

An unnamed Russian diplomat told Izvestia that in retaliation Russia could seize a US government dacha (country villa) at Serebryany Bor, to the northwest of Moscow, and a US warehouse in the city itself.

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However, the US ambassador’s Spaso House residence and the Anglo-American School in St Petersburg would not be affected.

Russia would carry out the threat if no compromise was reached at a St Petersburg meeting later this month between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Izvestia reported.

The US and its Western allies have also imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia because of Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

Russia blocked most imported Western food and drink in retaliation.


Five prominent Russians have been blacklisted by the Obama administration, just 11 days before the president leaves office.

Chief federal investigator Alexander Bastrykin and two men wanted in the UK for the murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko are among them.

The US sanctions come amid worsening ties, including claims Russia ran a cyber campaign to influence the November 8 election.

President-elect Donald Trump is seeking to restore closer relations with Russia.

According to officials, the sanctions are not related to the hacking but come under a 2012 law designed to punish human rights violators.

Under the act named after Russian tax fraud whistleblower Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, people on the list have their US assets blocked and are banned from travelling to the United States.

It originally targeted officials implicated in Sergey Magnitsky’s death, but has since been broadened to cover other human rights cases.

Image source Moscow Times

The five persons to be blacklisted are: Alexander Bastrykin, a close aide to President Vladimir Putin and head of the federal investigative agency, who has led campaigns against domestic dissidents and foreign NGOs working in Russia. US officials say he was complicit in the Magnitsky case; Gennady Plaksin, former head of the Universal Savings Bank, and Stanislav Gordiyevsky, former investigative agency official. Both are said to be involved in covering up Magnitsky’s death; Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the main suspects in the poisoning of former KGB agent and London exile Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Alexander Litvinenko died after drinking tea laced with a rare radioactive substance at a hotel in London.

Both Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun deny any involvement in the killing, and efforts to extradite the men to the UK have failed.

Last month, Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats following allegations by US intelligence services that Russia had ordered the hacking of Democratic Party emails to damage Donald Trump’s Democrat rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Russia denies the allegations and on January 9 described them as a witch-hunt, but has so far not responded to the expulsions.

After the 35 were thrown out, Russia declined to respond in kind, with President Vladimir Putin saying his country would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is said to have accepted the findings of the report but has declined to single out Russia as the source of the hacking.


Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin after he ruled out expelling American diplomats, despite a similar move by Washington in response to alleged hacking.

The president-elect tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

Vladimir Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.

On December 29, Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.

Donald Trump emphasized his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term “delay”.

Donald Trump has previously dismissed the hacking claims as “ridiculous” and said that Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions.

However, speaking before Vladimir Putin’s decision, Donald Trump did say he would meet US intelligence chiefs next week to be “updated on the facts of this situation”.

Donald Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on December 29: “Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote <<box in>>President-elect Trump.

“That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”

Under the US action, 35 diplomats from Russia’s Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the United States with their families; two compounds said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed.

Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB.

President Barack Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on January 20, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and from the servers of the DNC – some containing embarrassing information for Democrats – were released during the election campaign.

In a statement on the Kremlin website, President Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.

“We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”

Vladimir Putin wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Donald Trump and “the whole American people”.

The Russian president’s comments rebuffed his foreign ministry which had reportedly suggested expelling 31 American diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.

The Russian foreign ministry also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.

There has been no response yet to Vladimir Putin’s move from the Obama administration.

However, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the Russian hacking as an “act of war”, adding: “And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.”

John McCain said a lot more needed to be done in response to the hacking, with many sanctions possible.