Russia to expand American ‘blacklist’ after new US sanctions

Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 18, 2018

Russia will expand its own “blacklist” of Americans in response to new US sanctions announced by the Trump administration, a Russian minister said Friday.

The Trump administration confirmed Thursday it was enacting the new sanctions on Russia, including individuals indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, in a sweeping new effort to punish Moscow for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election.

Russia will use “the principle of parity” as it responds, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday, as quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti. Additional measures are not ruled out, he added.

He also said that the retaliatory measures Russia will take are not the preference of Moscow.

Ryabkov appeared slightly to soften the blow by adding that Russia did not want to close the window of dialogue with the US or the possibility of stabilizing bilateral relations.

“It is also worth thinking about that, destroying Russian-American relations,” said Ryabkov. “These politicians play with fire, because they simultaneously undermine global stability.”

In enacting the sanctions, the Trump administration is finally meeting a congressional mandate to impose measures punishing Moscow for its cyber intrusion. The delay had led to questions over US President Donald Trump’s willingness to punish Moscow.

In total, the administration applied new sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals on Thursday, including the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that produced divisive political posts on American social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a financial backer to the Internet Research Agency with deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also included. Known as “Putin’s chef,” Prigozhin was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for his involvement with the Russian troll farm.

Sanctions were also applied on 13 other individuals who were indicted by Mueller for their participation in the election meddling efforts.

The administration also disclosed a Russian attempt to penetrate the US energy grid, and said the sanctions would punish actors for their participation in other major cyberattacks.

In addition, sanctions were slapped on two Russian intelligence agencies, the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate, as well as some of their employees.

The new sanctions would bar the individuals from traveling to the United States, and freeze whatever assets they may have in the country.

Prigozhin, a close confidante of Putin, was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that he “couldn’t care less” about the latest US sanctions placed on him and that he would “stop going to McDonald’s.”

He added that he did not have any business “in the US or with the Americans.”

The new sanctions came as the US joined European allies in blaming Russia for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, deeming the action a “clear violation” of international law.

Britain on Wednesday announced sanctions against Russia over the attack, including the expulsion of 23 diplomats. Moscow denied the accusations and has warned it will respond “soon” with a retaliatory move to expel British diplomats from Russia.