US House Committee Approves Sanctions against Russian PM, Putin’s Spokesman

The amendment to the defense budget recommending the US administration to consider imposing sanctions against 35 Russian citizens that may be involved in violation of human rights, was passed Wednesday by the US House Rules Committee.

The amendment put forth by Democrat Rep. Malinowski blacklists Russian ministers, major businessmen, public figures and journalists under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act, an anti-Russian sanctions law.

Magnitsky Act is a 2016 expansion of the 2012 law adopted by the US at the behest of international investor and once vocal supporter of Putin, Bill Browder, who accused Kremlin of human rights violations in an effort to counter tax evasion charges against him in Russia.

It’s giving Biden administration a six-month deadline to submit a report to the relevant US Congress committees on whether any of the listed individuals comply with the criteria to be sanctioned.

The list, among other, includes PM Mikhail Mishustin, the Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, Russian National Guard Director Viktor Zolotov, Federal Security Agency Director Alexander Bortnikov, Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov and Oleg Deripaska.

Targeting Kremlin, the list of sanctioned Russians includes spokesman Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s chief of staff Anton Vaino and his first deputy Sergei Kirienko while RT Chief Editor Margarita Simonyan, journalist Vladimir Solovyov and Channel 1 CEO Konstantin Ernst are in the sanctioned media part.

In connection with the alleged Russian interference in US elections, the amendment also forbids US citizens from buying or selling newly-issued Russian sovereign obligations on both primary and secondary market.

The ban covers obligations in any currency with maturity of over 14 days, issued by the Central Bank of Russia, the National Welfare Fund of Russia and the Federal Treasury of Russia.

The US Chamber of Commerce already criticized the initiative, arguing it will restrict US banks’ ability to serve their corporate clients working in Russia and will seriously damage US companies’ operation in Russia while insignificantly affecting Russia’s ability to obtain funds on global markets.

According to the amendment, the US Director of National Intelligence has to provide reports to President Biden on possible interference in presidential and congressional elections so he can decide whether to suspend or to extend these sanctions.

The proposal is attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must-pass bill to fund the Pentagon, which is currently making its way through the House and the Senate.

Commenting the move, Congressional staffer Paul Massaro described the amendment as an amazing counter-kleptocracy national defense bill.

Meanwhile, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia (AmCham) President Alexis Rodzianko pointed that the US bill on sanctions has not yet been reviewed by the US House.

Speaking on the sidelines of the AmCham investment forum, Rodzianko noted that even if it is adopted,  it is up to executive authorities to make final decisions anyway, he expressed the belief it will not necessarily be adopted.

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