US expands sanctions over Russia activities in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. imposed sanctions Thursday on three men and nine entities, including a luxury hotel on the Black Sea, as it seeks to increase pressure on Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and human rights abuses in Ukraine.

The Treasury Department sanctioned Andriy Sushko, a member of the Russian security agency known as the FSB, who is suspected in the abduction of a Crimean Tatar activist who has protested the annexation. Also on the sanctions list is Aleksandr Basov, a top separatist official in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, who is accused of harassing and abusing religious minorities. His employer, the Ministry of State Security in the self-proclaimed Luhansk government, was also sanctioned over the torture and abuse of detainees.

Treasury said the Mriya Resort and Spa, a five-star hotel on the southern coast of Crimea, was added because its ownership can be traced to Russia’s state-owned Sberbank, which had already faced sanctions. It is also a target as the venue for the annual Yalta International Economic Forum, which is used by Russia to promote investment in Crimea. Three other hotels that were seized and sold after the annexation were also added to the list, a designation that bars any U.S.-linked financial transactions and freezes any assets they have under American jurisdiction. Vladimir Zaritsky, a former commander of the Missile Forces and Artillery of Russia, who owns the three hotels, was also added to the list.

Russia dismissed the sanctions. “Any American attempts to score political points using events that have already become history are of course doomed to failure and will not be taken into consideration by us,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after pushing through a separatist vote there. Moscow then went on to back separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.