Kremlin Says Russia Will Respond ‘Wisely’ If U.S. Sanctions Putin Cronies

By Patrick Goodenough | September 27, 2021 | 4:12am EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Russia will respond “wisely” if a measure requiring the U.S. administration to sanction 35 cronies of President Vladimir Putin becomes U.S. law, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday night.

Peskov told Russian television that Putin “will show wisdom” if required, saying such a response would be “quite predictable.”

He said it was “difficult to understand this tendency” of promoting sanctions, after the discussions held between Putin and President Biden in Geneva last June.

Both Peskov and the pro-Putin television presenter who was interviewing him on Channel 1, Vladimir Solovyov, are among the 35 people listed in a bipartisan sanctions amendment included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022.

The House of Representatives passed the $778 billion NDAA in a 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Proposed by Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and John Curtis (R-Utah), the amendment requires the president to submit to congressional committees a determination on whether the 35 named officials and businessmen meet the criteria to be sanctioned under Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law that provides for punitive measures against human rights abusers and corrupt actors.

The 35 Russians were identified by the anti-corruption network led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in a letter sent to President Biden early this year.

In Malinowski’s words, the 35 “help prop up Putin’s abusive regime and shadow wars around the world.”

They include Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the heads of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the National Guard, Russia’s Investigative Committee (the main federal investigating authority), the federal prison service, and the Central Election Commission; the ministers of agriculture and health; deputy defense minister; and Putin’s chief of staff Anton Vaino and his deputy, Sergei Kirienko.

Also listed are the heads of Russia’s state gas, oil and pipeline giants, Alexei Miller of Gazprom, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, and Nikolai Tokarev of Transneft; the governors of Moscow and St. Petersburg; the mayor of Moscow; three pro-Kremlin media executives; and several bankers, investors, and businessmen.

Some of the individuals named are already targeted for U.S. and/or European Union sanctions, over the poisoning last year of Navalny. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed “with high confidence” that the FSB was behind the assassination attempt.

They include FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, federal prison service chief Alexander Kalashnikov, Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, and National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov.

Bastrykin is also among those sanctioned by the British government last summer in connection with the 2009 death in custody of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer for whom the Global Magnitsky Act is named.

After Magnitsky’s death, his client, Hermitage Capital founder Bill Browder, campaigned extensively for a strong U.S. response, resulting in the passage of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, legislation targeting Russian rights violators with sanctions.

The law was expanded in 2016 to apply to abusers internationally, and similar measures have been put in place in Britain, Canada, and several other countries.

A Russian court in 2013 sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of tax evasion. It also found Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion posthumously.

The NDAA passed by the House last week will have to be reconciled with the Senate version before the legislation is sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

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