United States imposes sanctions on 24 Russians close to Vladimir Putin

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Preparations for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be affected by sweeping U.S. sanctions imposed yesterday on Russian government officials and businessmen, the White House said, Reuters reported.

Those hit include metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, described by the USA as operating for the Russian government, as well as Alexei Miller, director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom. The sanctions will freeze any assets that those targeted have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

- Kirill Shamalov, who is reportedly Mr Putin's son-in-law, married to his daughter Katerina Tikhonova, although neither Mr Putin nor the Kremlin have acknowledged that she is his daughter. Other companies that were put on the list include an agriculture company, Agroholding Kuban; one of the largest diversified industrial groups in Russia, the Basic Element; also listed are a auto, train and plane producer, Russian Cars (Russkie Mashiny).

The Treasury Department sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, plus 17 senior Russian government officials, are likely to complicate U.S. President Donald Trump's hopes for good relations with Putin. The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites, US Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said as he announced the new set of sanctions against Russia.

The officials ticked through a list of activities they said had prompted the USA to act, including Russia's annexation of Crimea, backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, cyber-hacking and attempts to subvert Western democracy.

Trump has continued to avoid directly criticising Putin himself, and recently invited the Russian leader to meet with him, possibly at the White House.

Rather than punishing Russia for one specific action, the new sanctions are in response to "the totality of the Russian government's ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern" of bad behaviour, said the officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

"However, at the same time, the president is going to continue to be tough until we see that change take place".

"The requisitioning of private property and other people's money is known as theft", the ministry added.

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Bill Browder, a US-born British financier whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian jail while investigating alleged tax fraud, tweeted that Washington was "finally hitting Putin and his cronies where it counts".

The ongoing diplomatic tussle between Russian Federation and USA, which was triggered after alleged poisoning of a former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughters in United Kingdom by nerve gas agent, is being expanded on each passing day.

The new targets join a host of other USA steps to punish Russia for troubling activities overseas, including its alleged involvement in poisoning an ex-spy with a military-grade nerve agent in the U.K. In tandem with European allies, the Trump administration expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in response and shut down a Russian consulate in Seattle.

Trump begrudgingly signed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in August a year ago, despite arguing that it undermined his own authority to lead USA foreign policy.

But Congress persisted, backed by evidence from USA intelligence agencies, and in March the administration finally imposed sanctions on 19 Russian entities for "malicious cyber attacks".

The politicians noted in the joint statement that Russia's government has authorized an attack on the British territory, which is a violation of the worldwide law.

Ties had already plummeted to a post-Cold War low over last month's attack on a former Russian double agent living in England.

The Russian embassy in the United States responded: "Washington has delivered yet another blow to U.S".