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"What we see in the sanctions is a USA attempt to split Russian society", the Russian embassy in the United States said in its statement, adding that such attempts would fail.

But the move is likely to provoke a strong response from the Kremlin, which has expressed increasing exasperation with Washington's policies under the Trump administration despite hopes that the president may take a softer approach toward Moscow.

But pressure for Washington to take action against Russian Federation has been mounting in a series of disputes reminiscent of Cold War tensions. "The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The target list includes some who are closely tied to Putin himself, including top-tier officials involved in Kremlin decision-making and heads of the top state-controlled business entities. Yet others on the list are far from the Kremlin's orbit, including some who long have fallen out of favour or hold technical positions.

The sanctions freeze any assets that those targeted have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from doing business with them. Both Mr Miller and Mr Kostin are longtime key members of Mr Putin's team.

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The latest U.S. 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. But Leonid Slutsky, who chairs the foreign relations committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said there was "no sensible reasons or grounds" for the US actions.

Numerous targets are individuals and businesses associated with Russia's energy sector, including those affiliated with state-owned Gazprom. But the administration said it would give guidance to Americans who may now have business with them about how to wind down that business and avoid running afoul of the sanctions.

In January the US Treasury published the controversial Kremlin List, which was shrugged off by the market and widely criticized as "one size fits all" document copy-pasted from the rankings of Russia's richest published by Forbes magazine. The action targets Russian oligarchs including Kirill Shamalov, who married Putin's daughter and has amassed a fortune since they tied the knot in February 2013; Oleg Deripaska, a senior Russian official who has been investigated for money laundering; and Suleiman Kerimov, who allegedly brought millions of euros into France in suitcases, according to the Treasury Department. 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).

Putin's government was blamed for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent living in close US ally Britain last month, and the United States and several European states announced plans to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats in response.

Trump's administration reacted by expelling 60 Russians they accused of being spies working under diplomatic cover and Moscow responded in kind.


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