The U.S. issued new sanctions on state-run groups in Russia and Iran for their roles in wrongfully detaining Americans. The move comes as the Biden administration "works to prevent more captive-taking and potentially secure the release of citizens currently being detained," CNN reports.
The sanctions arrive "amid several high-profile cases of Americans being wrongfully detained," CNN explains. Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, and former Marine Paul Whelan are being held in Russia on espionage charges, while U.S. citizens Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz are detained in "Iran's notorious Evin prison, where there have been reports of torture." The sanctions target Russia's Federal Security Service and the Intelligence Organization of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"Russia's and Iran's continued pattern of wrongfully detaining U.S. nationals is unacceptable," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement announcing the sanctions."The United States will never stop working to secure the release of U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage and reunite them with their loved ones."
In addition to the sanctions for the organizations, the Treasury Department sanctioned four officials from the IRGC-IO, "meaning any property of theirs that is in the U.S. or controlled by Americans must be blocked and reported to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control," NBC News says. The sanctions also block anyone in the U.S. "from making transactions with the designated people or entities."
Officials intend for the sanctions to act as a warning to those contemplating taking Americans hostage for personal gain. "We are also showing that one cannot engage in this sort of awful behavior using human beings as pawns, as bargaining chips, without paying consequences, and these are some of the consequences," a senior administration official said.