The US Treasury announced earlier in the day that it has imposed new sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and entities, including seven business leaders and 17 senior officials, for their alleged "malign activity" around the world.
Washington officials as well as the US media, however, have repeatedly claimed that the new sanctions are aimed exclusively at "Russian oligarchs and [government] elites, who profit from this corrupt system", as it was put by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The latest USA sanctions indeed targeted some major Russian energy companies, such as En+ or Eurosibenergo as well as the United Company RUSAL, which is the world's second-largest aluminum company by primary production output.
The sanctions, according to the Treasury, are not a response to anything in particular, but rather what they consider Russia's "malign activities across the world". They officials ticked through a list of complaints about Russian actions overseas, including its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, and cyber-hacking.
On the London Stock Exchange, global depositary receipts of En+, an energy company majority-owned by Deripaska, dropped by 19 percent on news of the sanctions.
The list also includes Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with alleged ties to Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort who is facing money laundering charges, and banker Sergei Gorkov, who was dispatched by Russia in December 2016 to meet Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower.
The officials declined to elaborate why Putin himself was not directly targeted by the sanctions, but emphasized that several in the Russian leader's inner circle were being targeted.
He angered many members of Congress by failing for months to implement sanctions on Russian Federation that lawmakers passed almost unanimously a year ago.
There was no formal reaction from the Kremlin.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin speaks in the White House briefing room in Washington on April 26, 2017.
"This is an example of uncontrolled anti-Russian hysteria led by the USA and successfully exported to the European continent", Slutsky was quoted as saying by the Russian newswire Tass. "Now, the sanctions cover captains of Russian business who refuse to play to Washington's scenario", the embassy said. But they noted that a number of Russian oligarchs and politicians and affiliated businesses have already been identified by the Treasury and State Department as potential targets. The lists, required under a law passed previous year, were informally seen as lists of potential future sanctions targets, even though the public version of the oligarchs list was merely a reprint of Forbes' list of billionaires in Russian Federation.
Putin's government dismissed the sanctions as "absurdity", arguing that the U.S. was punishing companies that have longstanding business ties to the U.S. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. was "striking at ordinary Americans" by jeopardizing "thousands of jobs".
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Catherine Lucey in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed.