A who’s who of Putin’s friends hit by US sanctions
MOSCOW (AP) — The seven people from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle targeted with U.S. sanctions on Monday include men who have helped Putin restore Kremlin control over Russia’s economy and its political system. They have been tasked with carrying out some of Putin’s most ambitious projects, most notably his plans to make Crimea an integral part of Russia after seizing the peninsula from Ukraine.
There were already 20 people on the list. The United States also added 17 Russian companies.
Putin publicly has scorned the West’s efforts to pressure him over the crisis in Ukraine, where a pro-Russia militia has been working to undermine the new Western-supported government in Kiev. “No sanctions can be effective in the modern world and they never produce the desired effect,” Putin declared last week.
Still, the first round of sanctions has harmed Russia’s economy, as Putin acknowledged, and the only positive news from the new round was that many feared they would be even worse.
Here is a list of the Russian officials and companies targeted:
Belavantsev, 64, was a political unknown until Putin appointed him to be his envoy to Crimea last month, on the same day that Russia formally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula. He graduated from a naval institute in Sevastopol, the Crimean port that is the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and his career has been closely tied to that of Sergei Shoigu, now the Russian defense minister.
Chemezov has known Putin since the 1980s, when they lived in the same apartment complex in Dresden, East Germany, where Putin served in the KGB. Since 2007, he has headed Rostec, an immense state-owned holding company formed around arms exporter Rosoboronexport. In 2011, the U.S. Defense Department awarded Rosoboronexport a controversial contract to supply 63 Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan’s security forces that swelled to more than $1 billion. Rostec itself has not been sanctioned. Chemezov, 61, joined the board of state oil company Rosneft in 2013.
A deputy prime minister since 2008, Kozak has often been chosen by Putin to pull off his major projects. Kozak, 55, was the government point man overseeing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a priority of Putin’s presidency and the most expensive games in history with a price tag topping $50 billion. No sooner had the Olympics come to an end than Putin found another project for him: managing the integration of Crimea into Russia.
As head of the Federal Protective Service since 2000, Murov, a 68-year-old army general, oversees thousands of officers charged with protecting the Russian president and other high-ranking officials. The agency traces its origins to the KGB directorate that guarded the Kremlin and the ruling Communist Party’s offices in Soviet times.
The chairman of the international affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Pushkov is best known as the longtime anchor of the weekly television political show “Postscriptum,” which serves as a platform for his hawkish, anti-Western views. Pushkov, 59, also expresses his opinions on Twitter, as in this post from last week: “Calling Russia a ‘regional power,’ Obama has only shown the depth of this despair over the growing global role of Russia from Syria to Ukraine.”
Now president of state-owned oil company Rosneft, Sechin has worked for Putin since the early 1990s and is known for his total loyalty. Sechin, 53, was seen as the mastermind behind the 2003 assault that bankrupted private oil company Yukos and sent its billionaire founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky to prison for 10 years. The most lucrative parts of Yukos ended up with Rosneft, making it Russia’s largest oil company. Under Sechin, Rosneft took over BP’s Russia venture and formed a major partnership with ExxonMobil that gives the Russian company access to ExxonMobil’s projects in Alaska.
As first deputy chief of the Kremlin staff since late 2011, Volodin, 50, has overseen the Kremlin-managed political system. His tenure has coincided with a wave of legislation cracking down on civil society and anti-Kremlin protests. The U.S. Treasury said that Putin’s decision to move into Crimea was believed to have been based on consultations with his closest advisers, including Volodin.
Most of the 17 companies on the list are controlled by three businessmen with close links to Putin: Gennady Timchenko and brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, all of whom were targeted by the first round of U.S. sanctions imposed in March.
One of the companies Timchenko owns is Stroytransgaz, a construction company that has amassed millions in contracts to build pipelines for state-owned Transneft. The company has recently expanded and won lucrative deals to build highways and soccer arenas for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Among the other companies on the Treasury Department list is the Volga Group, Timchenko’s investment vehicle.
Stroygazmontazh is a construction company owned by the Rotenberg brothers. The company has won a handful of contracts to build gas pipelines for state gas giant Gazprom, including the South Stream pipeline to go under the Black Sea. Gazprom’s contracts account for the most of the company’s revenues. The Rotenbergs also own InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank, which also were hit by Monday’s sanctions.
Two of the sanctioned companies are owned or controlled by Bank Rossiya, the only business targeted by the first round of sanctions and described by the Treasury Department as the personal bank for senior Russian officials.