The first round of US sanctions against Russia technically came last week in the form of a travel ban against people on a certain list, though since the list didn’t exist and no one was on it, today’s sanctions are the first practical ones.
Today’s move involves seizing the assets of seven Russians, who Obama accused of “undermining” Ukrainian sovereignty. In reality, the seven are middling political officials and in some cases had literally no ties to the Ukraine situation.
Of the seven, the only one likely familiar to anyone who is not deeply studious of the Russian political situation is Dmitry Rogozin, the former Russian Ambassador to NATO. Rogozin is now a Deputy Prime Minister.
The other targets include two advisors to President Putin, Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev, Russian Upper Parliament head Valentina Matviyenko, MP Leonid Slutsky, who chairs the committee on Russian relations with ethnic Russians overseas, constitutional law professor Andrey Klishas, and MP Yelina Mizulina.
Mizulina is perhaps the craziest inclusion, as she not only had nothing to do with the Ukraine situation but isn’t even a member of the ruling party. Her sole claim to fame is backing the anti-gay legislation in Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics and her inclusion was seemingly just the first chance the administration had to stick it to her for that.
Mizulina was quoted in the Russian press saying “the decision is puzzling – although we’ve expected sanctions – because I don’t have any accounts or real estate abroad, nor do my family members live abroad…Why was particularly I included?”
In addition, Obama went after three other Ukrainian citizens, including ousted President Vanukovych, Crimean parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, and wealthy businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, who was critical of the neo-Nazi-linked protesters that ousted Vanukovych.
It is unclear how many assets any of them had in the US to begin with, though since the very top of Russia’s political leadership was all ignored it is likely they went after the best people they could find with money they might conceivably be able to get.
Russia’s parliament has made no bones about intending retaliation in kind after US sanctions, and with the Obama Administration setting the precedent that people don’t even need to be tangentially involved in the present dispute, the Russian Duma could easily go after Americans with some nominal link to the administration who hold investments in oil-rich Russia.