US sanctions Russian-backed officials for ‘enabling the theft of Ukraine’s grain’


Washington
CNN

The US announced a slew of new sanctions on Thursday, including against five individuals for “supporting or enabling the theft of Ukraine’s grain” on behalf of Russia.

“Today’s action includes the designation of 22 Russian proxy officials, including five that have overseen the seizure or theft of hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain, exacerbating food insecurity around the globe,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Thursday.

The top US diplomat also said they “are taking actions against major Russian defense entities, key advanced-technology firms that support Russia’s defense industrial base, and financial infrastructure,” as well as against a “Russian military intelligence agency and against individuals connected to human rights abuses, both in the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine and within Russia itself.”

The State Department sanctions were one of a series of actions taken by the Biden administration against Russia on Thursday. According to a State Department fact sheet, the individuals sanctioned for their role in grain theft had been appointed to leadership roles in some of the occupied regions of Ukraine. As CNN reported in May, Russian forces have stolen farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from areas they were occupying.

The new sanctions come the week before the United Nations general assembly when the Biden administration is expected to urge world leaders – once again – to double down on stepping up to support during the global food crisis, that has been triggered in part by the war in Ukraine. In addition to stealing Ukrainian grain, Russia also effectively blocked grain that was already ready to leave the country’s ports from leaving for months when the war first began. In August ships loaded with grain started to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports after an export deal was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, but the Biden administration continues to watch the space closely.

According to a fact sheet, the sanctions targeted one Russian, Oleksandr Fedorovych Saulenko, who “was appointed mayor of Berdyansk by the Government of Russia and has overseen the theft of hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain through the port of Berdyansk.”

The sanctions also hit Yevhen Vitaliiovych Balytskyi, who “was appointed head of the Zaporizhzhia military-civilian administration by the Government of Russia and oversees the seizure of Ukrainian grain from the Zaporizhzhia Region;” Andriy Leonidovich Siguta, who “was appointed head of the military-civilian administration of the Melitopol District by the Government of Russia and oversees the seizure of Ukrainian grain from Melitopol;” Anton Viktorovich Koltsov, who “was appointed head of the military-civilian government in the Zaporizhzhia Region and oversees the theft of Ukrainian grain;” and Valery Mykhailovych Pakhnyts, who “was appointed head of the Starobilsk District of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic by the Government of Russia and oversees the theft of Ukrainian grain.”

In addition to the sanctions for grain theft, the State Department also sanctioned “three leading Russian military space entities that play central roles in strengthening Russia’s defense capabilities,” a number of entities in Russia’s tech and electronics sectors, and re-designated Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)

More of the sanctions rolled out on Thursday are part of an effort to go after Russia’s defense industrial capabilities by going after the country’s advanced technology industries and electronic companies.

“Sophisticated electronics are used in numerous weapons systems operated by Russia’s military, and Putin has publicly stated his concerns about Russia’s access to microelectronics following the start of Russia’s further, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To further increase pressure on Russia’s electronics sector, the Department of State is designating numerous advanced Russian electronics entities,” the fact sheet says.

For example, one of the electronic companies now sanctioned is the Joint Stock Company Research and Development Enterprise Radiosvyaz which carries out activities for Russia’s Ministry of Defense, the State Department said.

Separately, the Treasury Department sanctioned 22 individuals and two entities for their role in Russia’s aggression in Ukraine both prior to and during the war.

Among those sanctioned Thursday is “Task Force Rusich, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group that has participated in combat alongside Russia’s military in Ukraine, as well as two of its senior leaders,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

In addition, the sanctions target a Russian official who “has led Russia’s efforts to deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.”

The US also redesignated Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, along with three of his wives, three of his daughters, and his cousin.

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