The US imposes sanctions on Putin’s reputed girlfriend and others among the Russian elite

The US imposed sanctions on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s reputed girlfriend on Tuesday alongside other members of the Moscow elite and businesses that it says are enabling the war in Ukraine.

“The United States is taking additional actions to ensure that the Kremlin and its enablers feel the compounding effects of our response to the Kremlin’s unconscionable war of aggression,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement announcing the measures.

Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said her agency would “use every tool at our disposal to make sure that Russian elites and the Kremlin’s enablers are held accountable for their complicity in a war that has cost countless lives”.

The Treasury department said it had imposed sanctions on a number of Kremlin-connected elites, including Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic rhythmic gymnast and member of parliament who the US described as having a “close relationship to Putin”.

It also listed a big multinational company, a yacht and a sanctions-evasion operation among other entities it had hit with restrictions.

Kabaeva, who is chair of the board of a media company owned by some of Putin’s closest allies, was hit with sanctions by the UK and EU earlier this year.

Putin has said almost nothing about his private life since divorcing his first wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, in 2013. His eldest daughters Maria and Katerina head up state-funded science programs and occasionally appear in public under pseudonyms.

Russian tabloids, however, have reported that Putin has been in a relationship with Kabaeva since 2008, when a newspaper was shut down after claiming the two were engaged.

The US also imposed sanctions on the father-and-son chemicals tycoons Andrey Guryev, founder of fertilizer producer PhosAgro, and his son, also Andrey, the company’s former chief executive.

The elder Guryev owns Witanhurst, the second-largest home in London after Buckingham Palace, and Alfa Nero, a yacht he bought for $120mn in 2014.

The US described Guryev as a “known close associate” of Putin, whose doctoral thesis supervisor Vladimir Litvinenko owned more than 20 per cent of PhosAgro before transferring most of the stake to his wife in May.

It also said several other oligarchs hit with sanctions were “Putin enablers”, including Alexander Ponomarenko, the co-owner of Moscow’s largest airport, who it said had “close ties to other oligarchs and the construction of Vladimir Putin’s seaside palace”.

PhosAgro, fellow fertilizer producer EuroChem, and the airport were not subject to the sanctions, the Treasury said.

The US and EU issued clarifications exempting Russian agriculture and fertilizer exports from sanctions last month as part of efforts to get Moscow to lift its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

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