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UK – US announces sanctions against Russian oligarchs

By Caribbean News Global fav

ENGLAND / USA – On Thursday, the governments of UK and US announced that a full asset freeze and travel ban has been imposed against Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov, two of Russia’s leading oligarchs with significant interests in the UK  and US and close links to the Kremlin.

As with previous announcements, these actions were taken in close coordination with the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, the ROK, and Australia, demonstrating global support for Ukraine and the commitment to hold Russia’s authoritarian leadership responsible for their actions. As a part of the transatlantic effort to further deny Russian elites the benefits of their kleptocracy and ensure the effective implementation of our financial sanctions, US Treasury will share financial intelligence and other evidence where appropriate with the Department of Justice to support criminal prosecutions and seizure of assets.

Furthermore, Treasury and the Department of Justice will continue to work with international partners and allies to target assets in various jurisdictions, as committed to in the joint statement by leaders on February 26, 2022.

Alisher Usmanov has had significant interests in English football clubs Arsenal and Everton. He owns Beechwood House in Highgate, worth an estimated £48 million, and the 16th century Sutton Place estate in Surrey.

Igor Shuvalov’s assets in the UK include two luxury apartments in central London worth an estimated £11 million. He is a core part of Putin’s inner circle, and headed up Russia’s bid for the 2018 Football World Cup.

The foreign secretary will also establish an Oligarch Taskforce of ministers and officials from departments including the home office, treasury, department for business energy and industrial strategy, department for levelling up, housing and communities, and the national crime agency. This expert group will coordinate cross-government work to sanction oligarchs, helping build cases against the list of oligarchs it has identified as targets.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss, said:

“Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences. Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war. We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine.”

These latest sanctions are part of a tough package against Russia, including sanctioning the Russian Central Bank, and banning the Russian State and all Russian companies from raising funds in the UK. The government will also asset freeze every Russian bank. In coordination with the US and other allies, these measures amount to the largest set of financial sanctions in history.

The government will continue to ratchet up pressure and use sanctions to degrade the Russian economy on a scale that the Kremlin, or any major economy, has never seen before.

Dilbar, superyacht, property of Usmanov

Meanwhile, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the US Department of State intensified pressure on Russia by sanctioning numerous Russian elites and their family members, identifying certain property of these persons as blocked, and sanctioning Russian intelligence-directed disinformation outlets. The elites sanctioned continue to provide direct and indirect support to the Government of the Russian Federation (GoR) through their business empires, wealth, and other resources.

The aid of these individuals, their family members, and other key elites allows president Vladimir Putin to continue to wage the ongoing, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Blocked as part of [today’s] action are three Russian elites, two of their spouses, three of their adult children, six of their companies, one of Russia’s largest privately-owned aircraft, and one of the world’s largest superyachts.

“Treasury is committed to holding Russian elites to account for their support of president Putin’s war of choice,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Today, across the US government and in coordination with partners and allies, we are demonstrating our commitment to impose massive costs on Putin’s closest confidants and their family members and freeze their assets in response to the brutal attack on Ukraine. We also continue to target Russia’s destabilizing disinformation efforts.”

M-IABU, jet, property of Usmanov

Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov (Usmanov) is one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires with vast holdings across multiple sectors of the Russian Federation economy as well as internationally. Through holding company USM, of which Usmanov owns approximately 49 percent, and other vehicles, Usmanov holds significant interests in the metals and mining, telecommunications, and information technology sectors. Usmanov is known to be close to Putin as well as Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia and former president and prime minister of Russia. Usmanov and Putin allegedly have financial ties, while Medvedev has reportedly benefited from the personal use of luxurious residences controlled by Usmanov.

Usmanov’s Kremlin ties enrich him and enable his luxurious lifestyle. Evidencing his wealth, Usmanov owns one of the world’s largest superyachts, known as Dilbar, and a business jet with tail number M-IABU. Dilbar, named after Usmanov’s mother, is Cayman Islands flagged with IMO number of 9661792, and a gross registered tonnage of 15917. This superyacht’s estimated worth is believed to be between $600 and $735 million. Dilbar has two helipads and one of the world’s largest indoor pools ever installed on a yacht.

The estimated cost to run Dilbar is $60 million per year. Usmanov’s aircraft, M-IABU, is an Airbus A340-300 with serial number 955. The jet is registered in the Isle of Man and is believed to have cost between $350 and $500 million. The aircraft’s moniker, Bourkhan, is Usmanov’s father’s name. Additionally, the plane’s registration spells out “I’m Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov.” MIABU is one of the largest privately owned planes in Russia and was previously leased out for use by Uzbekistan’s president.

Nikolay Petrovich Tokarev (Tokarev) is a long-time Putin associate who served with Putin in the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security (KGB) as agents in Dresden, East Germany, in the 1980s. Tokarev is also the president of one of Russia’s most important companies, Transneft, a state-owned pipeline company that is responsible for transporting 90 percent of oil extracted in Russia. As the president of Transneft, Tokarev has enriched himself and his family, amassing a business and real estate empire extending throughout Russia and into Europe. Before his time as Transneft’s president, Tokarev worked in the Administrative Department of the President of the Russian Federation and was awarded numerous titles, orders, and honorary certificates for his service.

Tokarev’s family members, including his wife Galina Alekseyevna Tokareva (Galina) and daughter Maiya Nikolaevna Tokareva (Maiya), have benefited from his proximity to Putin and the GoR. Maiya Tokareva’s real estate empire has been valued at more than $50 million in Moscow, Russia alone and includes at least three companies: Moscow-based Limited Liability Company Ostozhenka 19 (Ostozhenka 19) and Zagreb, Croatia-based Katina Drustvo s Ogranicenom Odgovornoscu za Nekretnine I Ugostiteljstvo (Katina) and T.G.A. D.O.O. za Trgovinu I Usluge (TGA). Katina owns prime oceanfront real estate on a Croatian island that includes a villa built by the 19th century Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin (Prigozhin), who was previously designated pursuant to multiple sanctions authorities for facilitating attempts to interfere in U.S. elections and supporting the GoR, is the Russian financier of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which he utilizes to operate global influence operations. Prigozhin directs the generation of content to denigrate the U.S. electoral process and funds Russian interference efforts while also attempting to evade sanctions by standing up front and shell companies both in and outside of Russia. Prigozhin’s influence apparatus is reportedly supporting Russian government designed influence operations within Ukraine.

These influence efforts are focused on sowing discord on social issues in Ukraine.In early 2021, Prigozhin continued to coordinate messages in an attempt to spread disinformation about the United States government. His vast global network spreads false narratives online. Prigozhin’s influence efforts extend beyond the United States. OFAC has previously targeted these activities around the world, particularly through the Kremlin-backed Wagner group, on the continent of Africa. In 2021, Prigozhin assisted Russia’s efforts to interfere in elections and subvert public opinion in Asia. Russia’s efforts to promote false narratives on various topics, including Russia-Ukraine relations, relies on platforms associated with Prigozhin. Prigozhin also made efforts to spread disinformation on European politicians and officials to specifically achieve Russia’s goals in relation to Ukraine.

Prigozhin’s family facilitates the activities of his enterprise, which benefits from his favored status within Russia’s elite. Lyubov Prigozhina (Lyubov) is Prigozhin’s wife, and Polina Prigozhina (Polina) and Pavel Prigozhin (Pavel) are Prigozhin’s daughter and son, respectively. Lyubov, Polina, and Pavel play various roles in Prigozhin’s business enterprise.

Further sanctions were also directed against SVR-Directed Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF): an online journal registered in Russia that is controlled by the SVR’s Directorate of Active Measures and is closely affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SCF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 on April 15, 2021, for having engaged in foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Additional SVR-Directed disinformation networks: Russia’s SVR directs two additional disinformation outlets, New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review. Both media outlets spread many types of disinformation about international organizations, military conflicts, protests, and any divisive issues that they can exploit.

GRU-Directed InfoRos: a news agency that is primarily run by the GRU’s 72nd Main Intelligence Information Center (GRITs). GRITs is a unit within Russia’s Information Operations Troops, which is identified as Russia’s military force for conducting cyber espionage, influence, and offensive cyber operations. InfoRos operates under two organizations, “InfoRos, OOO” and “IA InfoRos.” InfoRos has used a network of websites, including nominally independent websites, to spread false conspiracy narratives and disinformation promoted by GRU officials, to include spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

FSB-Directed NewsFront: a Crimea-based disinformation and propaganda outlet that worked with FSB officers to coordinate a narrative that undermined the credibility of a news website advocating for human rights. NewsFront was also used to distribute false information about the COVID-19 vaccine. With the self-proclaimed goal of providing an “alternative source of information” for Western audiences, Newsfront is particularly focused on supporting Russia-backed forces in Ukraine. Newsfront was designated pursuant to section 224(a)(l)(B) of CAATSA, E.O. 13694, as amended, and E.O. 13382 on April 15, 2021, for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the FSB.

FSB-Directed SouthFront: a disinformation site that receives taskings from the FSB. Following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, SouthFront sought to promote perceptions of voter fraud during the 2020 U.S. presidential election cycle, and was designated pursuant to E.O. 13848, E.O. 13694, as amended, and E.O. 13382 on April 15, 2021, for having engaged in foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the FSB.

Additional disinformation sites

In 2020, media influence organization Project Lakhta, owned by Prigozhin, developed a new website, United World International (UWI). Since at least 2014, Project Lakhta has used among other things, fictitious online personas that posed as US persons to interfere in US elections, as the IRA did during the 2016 US election. In 2022, UWI suggested that Ukraine would “perish” if it is admitted to NATO. UWI’s chief editor, Darya Aleksandrovna Dugina (Dugina), sought contributors to write articles on UWI.

Dugina’s father, Alexander Dugin (Dugin), was first designated in 2015 pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine. Dugin was a leader of the Eurasian Youth Union, which actively recruited individuals with military and combat experience to fight on behalf of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and has stated that it has a covert presence in Ukraine.

Dugin controls Geopolitica, a website that serves as a platform for Russian ultra-nationalists to spread disinformation and propaganda targeting Western and other audiences. For example, on February 8, 2022, Geopolitica published an article falsely accusing the U.S. and NATO of provoking war with Russia, in order to “further terrorize the American people in all sorts of malicious ways.”

Sanctions implications

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

All transactions by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt. These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

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