Donald Trump punishes 'malign' Russian Federation with crippling new sanctions

Exclusive: Mueller's team questioning Russian oligarchs

U.S. President Donald Trump has been under fire for not taking strong action against Russian Federation after a series of diplomatic disputes reminiscent of the Cold War era and the sanctions could complicate his hopes for good relations with Putin.

The Treasury Department sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, plus 17 senior Russian government officials, are likely to complicate US President Donald Trump's hopes for good relations with Putin.

Washington officials as well as the US media, however, have repeatedly claimed that the new sanctions are aimed exclusively at "Russian oligarchs and [government] elites, who profit from this corrupt system", as it was put by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The officials ticked through a list of complaints about Russia's actions beyond its borders, including its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, and cyber-hacking.

The fresh sanctions are the latest step by the USA against Russia following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England, interference in the United States 2016 election and a cyberattack, described as the most damaging in history.

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President Trump has avoided criticising Mr Putin himself, however, inviting the Russian leader to meet with him, possibly at the White House. Still, in recent weeks Trump's administration has rolled out a series of actions - including several economic and diplomatic steps - to increase pressure on Putin and those in his circle.

Trump's outgoing national security H.R. McMaster used his final public remarks before retiring Tuesday to publicly call for a tougher line on Russian Federation.

Kerimov's alleged technique of purchasing of "villas" to launder his money also comports with questions that Trump opponents have asked about his business relationships with wealthy foreigners.

Last month, the U.S. targeted 19 Russians and five other entities with sanctions in the first use of the law.

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The question now is if Trump will move ahead with the tariffs as announced or change course, potentially going to the table. Though the tariffs are not in place yet, the news had an immediate impact on markets, including the soybean market.

"The events this morning are very unfortunate but not unexpected", Deripaska said in statement provided to Reuters by a spokesperson for Basic Element, one of his businesses.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said, however, Moscow's contacts with the USA government would not be brought to an end by the sanctions. "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilising activities".

The oligarchs targeted have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and include Kirill Shamalov, his former son-in-law.

Igor Rotenberg acquired "significant assets" from his father, Arkady Rotenberg, after the elder oligarch was sanctioned in March 2014, including 79 percent of the Russian oil and gas drilling company Gazprom Burenie.

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Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, is notable in that he has cultivated deep ties with the National Rifle Association for years. The state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank were also targeted under new santions.

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