Detained Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny yesterday called on the US government to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin's cronies:
Such sanctions should primarily target Mr. Putin's inner circle, the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation's wealth, including Gennady N. Timchenko, head of the Volga Group; Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, influential businessmen and former judo sparring partners of Mr. Putin; Yuri V. Kovalchuk, a financier believed to be Mr. Putin's banker; Vladimir I. Yakunin, president of Russian Railways; the oligarchs Roman A. Abramovich and Alisher B. Usmanov; and Igor I. Sechin and Aleksei B. Miller, the heads of Rosneft and Gazprom, respectively.
Apparently the call to action was heard, and the US is attempting to ratchet up pressure on Putin's real inner circle. Today, some but not all of these names—Timchenko, the Rotenbergs, Kovalchuk, and Yakunin—have been added to the list of people who cannot travel or transact business in the United States. A spokesman for Timchenko's oil-trading firm, Gunvor, told Quartz "it is clear no due diligence was performed to support this accusation," and said that Putin has never been a beneficiary of the firm or its activities.
Kovalchuk's financial institution, Bank Rossiya, also made the list. Mark Dubowitz, one of the architects of the Obama administration's Iran sanctions, recently told Quartz that crippling a single Russian financial institution by cutting it off from international transactions would be a key symbol—"the 'kill the chicken to scare the monkeys' theory of financial sanctions."