WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department said it was blacklisting nearly three dozen Russian people and companies with ties to military and intelligence agencies, in its latest effort to punish Moscow for “malign activities.”
Among those targeted by the effort, announced on September 20, were the 12 military intelligence officers who had been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Many of those named have also been sanctioned or blacklisted previously, under different designations, meaning that the new measures were unlikely to have any significant effect.
In all, 33 Russians and Russian companies were added to the blacklist, which also included Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian tycoon known colloquially as “Putin’s chef” for the catering contracts his company has with the Kremlin.
His catering companies and a private military company known as PMC Wagner, whose fighters have turned up in conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Africa, were also blacklisted.
Prigozhin and his companies were indicted by Mueller in February for alleged election meddling. He has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations, responding to the February indictment by saying: "If they want to see the devil, let them."
The move was taken under the 2017 law known as CAASTA that was overwhelmingly passed by Congress over President Donald Trump’s objections. The law was passed specifically to target Russia, along with several other countries, setting up a wider framework for punitive financial measures, while also making it harder for the White House to lift existing measures.
"The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia," a State Department official told reporters. "They are…aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities."
Another, even harsher bill currently making its way through Congress aims to punish Russia by targeting its ability to issue sovereign debt, going after major energy companies like Gazprom and Rosneft, and other things.
The legislation, known by its acronym DETER, has bipartisan support, but it’s unclear whether it will come up for a vote before the November midterm elections in the United States.
State Department officials also named a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russia fighter jets and an antiaircraft system.
Officials said the company, Equipment Development Department, and chief officer, Li Shangfu, engaged in "significant transactions" with Russia’s main arms exporter Rosoboroneksport.