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Where Are the Sanctions Against Putin's Regime?

Where Are the Sanctions Against Putin's Regime?

By Monday, 19 October 2015 10:38 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Despite strong urgings from opponents of Vladimir Putin’s regime, the White House is making no move for sanctions against the Russian president.

At the regular briefing for White House reporters last Tuesday, I quoted Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murtz’s criticism days earlier that “there have been quite a few sanctioned under the Magnitsky law [the three-year-old legislation under which sanctions can be placed on people close to the 2009 death of Russian lawyer-accountant Sergei Magnitsky], but unfortunately, they are all low-level operatives. But not a single, high-profile, influential person in Putin’s circle has been targeted.”

Is the administration considering any fresh sanctions against any high-level state-connected oligarchs around Putin? I asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest. 

“That's a difficult question to answer.” Earnest told me, “because when it comes to sanctions, it would not be in our strategic interest to discuss what future plans we may have with regard to sanctions.

“If we were to discuss those plans in some detail in advance, it would only make it easier for those who may be the target of sanctions to take steps to evade them before they're imposed.”

The president’s top spokesman then referred me to the Treasury Department, which oversees implementing sanctions.

But, Earnest quickly added, “I would not anticipate them being able to provide a lot of information with a lot of specificity in advance because it would only undermine our overall effort.”

According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the Treasury Department, sanctions have been placed on 34 individuals and entities under the Magnitsky Law since President Obama signed the legislation in 2012.

Several Putin opponents left no doubt they were not satisfied with this application of the law nor with Earnest’s response, however.

“It is, of course, proper and understandable that specific sanctions are announced only after the decision has been made and after all the due process,” said Kara-Murza, deputy leader of the Russian Freedom Party, whose collapse in his Moscow office in May and subsequent diagnosis as being poisoned topped news stories worldwide.

“But it is important,” he added, “as a matter of precedent, that the Magnitsky Act be applied toward not just low-level fall guys, but also toward high-ranking human rights abusers, who should be held responsible for their actions. This would be the most effective way to send a message to the Kremlin that the U.S. takes human rights seriously.”

Elena Servettaz, hostess of the Russian-language “Truth Hour” on Radio France International, agreed. She said: “Well, it's always the same, they don't know how to speak to Putin. The West — that is, the United States and the European Union, believe there will be consequences, but come on! Sanctions against Belarus were just suspended, as you know.

“And we know everything about MH17 [the Malaysian airline downed over Crimea with Russian-made missiles] today.” I mean, we now have confirmation of the facts we knew from the very beginning.

“Maybe the Russian president is not the White House’s priority but in Russia they speak about the U.S. around the clock. They care way too much how Washington will react. And it does not.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Despite strong urgings from opponents of Vladimir Putin’s regime, the White House is making no move for sanctions against the Russian president.
russia, putin, mh17
Monday, 19 October 2015 10:38 AM
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