“The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today imposed additional sanctions in response to Russia’s continuing malign activity and destabilizing behavior by designating three individuals and nine entities under Ukraine-related authorities,” it announced on Wednesday.
“Our sanctions are a clear reminder that efforts seeking to normalize investment and economic relationships with those operating in Crimea will not be tolerated,” said US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker.
The sanctions will freeze any US-based assets and ban financial transactions with the targets, who include Vladimir Zaritsky, the former commander-in-chief of Russia’s missile forces and artillery who is leading a hotel project in Crimea.
Zaritsky’s firm bought three hotels in Crimea that had been owned by the Ukraine state and were taken over after the integration.
Under the new sanctions is the Mriya Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel that opened in the resort of Yalta shortly after the annexation and which the Treasury Department called “the main Russian platform for showcasing investment opportunities in Crimea.”
One of the entities sanctioned – the Limited Liability Company Southern Project – was linked to Bank Rossiya and Russian businessman Yuri Kovulchuk, the Treasury said in a statement.
The US Congress had mandated the latest round of sanctions slapped on Russia.
The sanctions come as the US State Department says it is preparing more sanctions against Russia, as required by Congress, over an alleged nerve attack carried out in Salisbury, UK against a former double agent and his daughter.
Russia has hit back over US sanctions and vowed reciprocal measures, further damaging the US-Russia relationship despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of forming a closer relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has described an affinity for Putin and has at times appeared to be following a different agenda than his administration when it comes to punishing Russia over Crimea.
Both leaders are expected to attend events in Paris this weekend commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
During a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump did not rule out the possibility when asked about a meeting with Putin in Paris.
Instead, Trump referred to his “good” July summit in Helsinki with Putin. “I had a very, very good meeting — a very, very good meeting with President Putin, and a lot was discussed about security, about Syria, about Ukraine, about the fact that President Obama allowed a very large part of Ukraine to be taken,” Trump said.
When a reporter pointed out it was Putin who decided to integrate Crimea, President Trump insisted, “No, no. It was President Obama that allowed it to happen.”
In 2014, after a referendum Russia integrated Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula whose population is largely ethnically Russian but was part of Ukraine. Western powers have vowed never to recognize the integration.