President Biden has plenty of prime targets to punish with economic penalties over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — including the editor-in-chief of the RT propaganda network and the head of the goon squad that violently stops opposition protests, according to a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The leaders of the Congressional Caucus Against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy have called for immediate “freezing” sanctions and asset seizures against the oligarchs and cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a group dubbed the “Navalny 35” in honor of jailed Kremlin critic and poisoning survivor Alexei Navalny.
Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and John Curtis (R-Utah) also urged other countries opposed to the Ukraine invasion “to take immediate action to seize the assets of these corrupt officials and kleptocrats.”
“The time for coordinated action against these enablers of Putin’s abuses is now,” they said in a statement Thursday.
“The United States government should use all of its diplomatic resources and legal authorities to ensure that third countries seize the yachts, private jets, beachside villas and hidden bank accounts of Putin’s cronies.”
On Friday, the White House said Biden would impose sanctions against Putin — who’s suspected of amassing a fortune worth billions of dollars while in office — and other Russian officials, following a similar move by the European Union.
The “Navalny 35” list was compiled by the Moscow-based Anti-Corruption Foundation and sent to Biden a little more than a week after he was inaugurated in January 2021.
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In addition to billionaire oligarchs Roman Abramovich, an oil baron and owner of English Premier League soccer team Chelsea; and Alisher Usmanov, a telecom tycoon; the list includes Igor Shuvalov, a former Russian deputy prime minister who’s now chairman of the state-owned VEB development bank, which Biden sanctioned Tuesday.
Shuvalov — whose family fortune was estimated at $220 million in 2014 — holds “significant assets abroad” and “was instrumental in creating the system of state corruption” that now dominates Russian institutions, according to the ACF.
Also among the “Navalny 35” are:
- Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of RT, formerly known as Russia Today. The ACF calls her “a key mouthpiece of state propaganda abroad,” noting that she’s boasted that the network is capable of “conducting an information war against the whole Western world.”
- Victor Zolotov, a Putin loyalist and director of Russia’s National Guard, which is primarily responsible for suppressing anti-government street protests. Zolotov once challenged Navalny to a duel and threatened to “make mincemeat” out of him, according to the ACF.
- Andrei Kartapolov, deputy defense minister and chief of the Main Directorate for Political-Military Affairs. The ACF says he uses forced military service to persecute activists and has been linked to the 2014 missile attack on Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board.
- Vladimir Solovyov, a high-profile TV and radio host who was given a medal by Putin for his purportedly “objective” coverage of Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014. Solovyov is among “the primary mouthpieces of authoritarian propaganda” in Russia and has defended and promoted “the extrajudicial treatment” of Navalny and other dissidents, according to the ACF.
On Thursday, Navalny — who voluntarily returned to Russia from Germany last year following treatment for an assassination attempt with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok — appeared at a hearing on fraud charges that the White House has called “trumped-up” and “politically motivated.”
The anti-corruption activist said he was “against this war” in Ukraine, according to Reuters.
“It was unleashed to conceal the robbery of Russia’s citizens … and this war will lead to an enormous number of victims from both sides, ruined lives and a continuation of the impoverishment of Russian citizens,” Navalny said.