As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky stepped up his charges that his nation’s wealthiest individual is helping Russia plan a coup against him, the White House on Monday would not rule out sanctions against billionaire businessman and philanthropist Rinat Akhmetov.
Asked by Newsmax whether the U.S. is considering Magnitzky-style sanctions — sanctions targeted to a particular individual — against Akhemtov, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that she didn’t "have anything in terms of considerations of sanctions to preview for you."
But the president’s top spokeswoman quickly added that "obviously, we are considering a range of sanctions as we’re looking at the buildup of Russian troops [along the border with Ukraine] and bellicose rhetoric [from Russian President Vladimir Putin].
"But beyond that, I don’t have anything to preview," Psaki told Newsmax.
Akhmetov — worth an estimated $7.5 billion and considered by Bloomberg Business Week to be the wealthiest Ukrainian — has been engaged in a war of words with Zelensky for the past several weeks. The president has charged that Akhmetov, who owns a Russian-language newspaper, was enlisted by the Kremlin to stage a coup against him.
"An absolute lie!" is what the mining and communications magnate branded Zelensky’s accusation.
The two have been at dagger’s ends for several years. Akhmetov, a close friend of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and of onetime Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, strongly opposed Zelensky’s bid for president when the onetime TV comedy star became a candidate in 2019. His publications and TV network have been highly critical of Zelensky since he took office.
Zelensky’s government has steadfastly refused to reimburse one of Akhmetov’s energy companies for green energy purchased by state companies.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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