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The U.S. just sanctioned Putin's chef again, plus a Chinese company

After appearing on a previous round of sanctions in March, Yevgeny Prigozhin had quipped that it just meant he’d have to eat less American fast food.

by Greg Walters
Sep 20 2018, 7:25pm

The U.S. slapped 33 Russian individuals and companies with fresh sanctions on Thursday, including all of the alleged cyber-spies and internet trolls indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

The State Department also blacklisted a Chinese company for buying Russian jets and missile systems from a sanctioned Russian company. That move marks the first time a non-Russian entity has been designated for sanctions under a law passed by Congress in 2017 to punish Moscow’s aggressive foreign policy decisions, known by its acronym, CAATSA.

More than half of the names included on the list published Thursday were sanctioned already, including 13 people accused of being pro-Russian internet trolls linked to the notorious St. Petersburg Internet Research Agency, better known as the Russian “troll factory.”

Read: Trump's big, new sanctions threat is more about deterring Congress than scaring Russia

That operation was allegedly led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the wealthy longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin known as “Putin’s chef.”

This time, Prigozhin and the others on the list were sanctioned as part of the implementation of CAATSA, the State Department said.

Besides smacking Moscow for election interference, CAATSA, which stands for Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, also aimed to punish Russia for supporting rebels fighting in breakaway provinces of Ukraine, for annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea, for overseeing a wide range of cyber intrusions and attacks, and other activities. Thursday’s list also added 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted by Mueller in July.

The other notable casualty of CAATSA is Chinese company Equipment Development Department, or EDD, which was designated over China’s acquisition of Russian Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, the State Department said.

The fresh sanctions mark an expansion of the Trump administration’s implementation of the CAATSA law, a measure that Congress passed with a veto-proof majority in 2017, forcing Trump to sign it.

Trump has been criticized for slow-walking the bill’s main provisions, including the most high-profile part: the requirement that his administration publish a name-and-shame list of Russia’s richest billionaires.

That list, which became known as “the Kremlin Report,” had sent ripples of panic rolling through Russia’s billionaire class due to fears that their names might be on it. While the list didn’t mandate any particular punishment, Russia’s elite had worried that appearing on the list could send a signal to Western bankers and financiers handling their billions that they might soon be blacklisted for real.

But the Trump administration pulled that punch. Instead of printing a specific list, Trump’s Treasury Department opted to reprint the Forbes list of wealthiest Russians and an all-inclusive directory of people who work in the Kremlin, rendering the “Kremlin Report” effectively void.

Read: Putin's "Erik Prince" is tied to some of Russia's riskiest covert operations

Over recent months, the continued rollout of new sanctions against Russians have begun to include several repeated names — notably, Prigozhin's.

After appearing on a previous round of sanctions in March, Prigozhin had quipped that it just meant he’d have to eat less American fast food.

“I have no business in the U.S. or with Americans,” Prigozhin said at the time. “It doesn’t bother me. Except now I’ll stop going to McDonald’s.”

Cover image: Russian gas monopoly Gazprom Head Alexei Miller, right, and Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin gesture before a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Konstantin palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.

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