US to hit more Russians with sanctions

US to hit more Russians with sanctions

WASHINGTON:The Trump administration is preparing to impose new sanctions on powerful Russian business and political figures under a law passed last year in response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Three officials said Thursday that the Treasury Department would implement the sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as CAATSA, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 2017 and signed into law by President Donald Trump despite some objections.

The law aims to punish Russia for interfering in the U.S. election as well as actions intended to subvert democracy in Europe. The law also authorizes the president to impose sanctions on Iran for destabilizing activity in the Middle East and North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The officials would not say how many or which Russians would be hit by the sanctions, which are expected to be announced early Friday. But they noted that a number of Russian oligarchs and politicians and affiliated businesses have already been identified by the Treasury and State Department as potential targets. Two officials said the sanctions would affect at least some those who appeared on that list, which was compiled and published in January. Last month, the U.S. targeted 19 Russians and five other entities with sanctions in the first use of the law.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the actions ahead of the announcement, which is expected early Friday. An inter-agency team was briefed on the outlines of the announcement on Wednesday, they said. The sanctions will freeze any assets that those targeted have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

The State Department declined to comment.

Trump has been criticized by many for not taking a stronger stance on Russia election interference and destabilizing actions.

But during a news conference on Tuesday with Baltic leaders, Trump argued that his administration is taking action.

"Nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have," Trump said.

White House officials have noted that the administration has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian consulates in response to Russian behavior, including the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain that has been blamed on Moscow.