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U.S. Reported Poised To Impose Sanctions On Wealthy Russians

Russian billionaire and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov (left) talks with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. (file photo)
Russian billionaire and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov (left) talks with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. (file photo)

The United States plans to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia, this time targeting Russian billionaires with ties to President Vladimir Putin, media report.

Reuters and The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least a half dozen Russians will be sanctioned under a U.S. law mandating such punishment in retaliation for Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Post said the new sanctions will target wealthy people on a list released in January by the Treasury Department, which includes such prominent figures as Aleksei Miller, the chief executive officer of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russia's state-run oil giant Rosneft.

Reuters said the new sanctions could be announced as early as April 5, while The Post said they will be announced by April 6.

Asked about the issue on April 5, Putin's spokesman told a conference call with reporters that "the situation is quite complicated, it is very tense."

"Therefore, we cannot be guided by media reports and cannot base any of our assessments or comments on these reports," Dmitry Peskov said. "We'll wait for something to happen or an official announcement," he added.

The last round of sanctions was imposed on March 15 against 19 people and five organizations, including Russian intelligence services, with the U.S. Treasury citing election meddling and cyberattacks on the United States stretching back at least two years.

Some members of Congress have accused the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump of doing too little to punish Russia for alleged election interference.

The Post reported that Trump's national security advisers recently pushed for more sanctions after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England and a cyberattack they described as the most destructive and costly in history.

Outgoing U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster argued this week that "we have failed to impose sufficient costs" on Moscow, hours after Trump asserted that "nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have."

U.S.-Russian relations already have worsened sharply recently over allegations, which Moscow denies, that Russia was responsible for the March 4 chemical nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain.

On March 26, the United States and other Western states announced plans to expel more than 150 Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow responded in kind several days later by ousting dozens of Western diplomats.

The series of measures against the Kremlin prompted Russian Ambassador in Washington Anatoly Antonov to complain recently about what he called a "toxic atmosphere" in the U.S. capital.

With reporting by Reuters and The Washington Post
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