*Update: Directly following Trump’s statements about the list, the Treasure Department quietly released the list. Putin called it “an unfriendly act,” and the chief economist at BCS Financial Group, Vladimir Tikhomirov, said,“They just included everybody, all the big businessmen, all the major bureaucrats.”
The Kremlin said Monday that a soon-to-be-released report by the U.S. Treasury Department — one that could lead to sanctions against Putin-linked oligarchs — is a “direct and obvious” attempt by the U.S. government to meddle in Russia’s upcoming presidential election.
The report, expected as early as Monday, will detail the closeness of President Vladimir Putin to a list of Russian business and political figures. While not directly calling for sanctions against these individuals, the report will lay out how sanctions could be applied.
Whatever the outcome, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call Monday that the Treasury Department report represented an attempt by the U.S. to sway the Russian political process.
“We do think this is a direct and obvious attempt timed to coincide with the elections in order to influence them,” Peskov said. “We do not agree with this and are convinced that there will be no influence.”
As of now, Peskov said “the publication of this list” of Russian oligarchs “on its own doesn’t mean anything” and that this “isn’t the start of a new sanctions wave.” He added that Moscow will react to U.S. actions as they come and with Russian businesses in mind:
“These actions will of course be analysed in Moscow so that our interests and the interests of our companies will in any case be maintained to the maximum.”
Russia’s upcoming presidential election is set to be held March 18, and Putin is widely expected to retain his power. Peskov told reporters Monday that he didn’t see much standing in the Russian leader’s way:
“It’s unlikely that at this stage there is someone who is serious competition. Putin proved his undeniable leadership on multiple occasions and continues to do that.”
News that the U.S. was producing a list of Putin-linked oligarchs has reportedly caused a flurry of activity in the Russian business and banking worlds. Sources told Bloomberg that some individuals were performing stress-tests to see how U.S. sanctions could harm their fortunes. Others are simply liquidating their holdings.
Sources within Russia’s business elite told Reuters that the threat of being named a Putin ally has caused some in the wealthiest circles to distance themselves from the president. In the U.S., Russian business-types have reportedly approached former Treasury and State Department officials for help in staying off the list entirely.
Editor’s Note: It is important to note that a State Department spokesperson said that no action would be taken against those on the list, nor those doing business with the blacklisted entities, as the list itself was sufficiently “serving as a deterrent.” However, with the recent history of this administration saying one thing and then doing another, it is quite hard to put stock in firm statement such as this.