Speed Reads

Business as usual

Trump administration to lift sanctions on companies of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department informed Congress that it intends to lift sanctions on three companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a name familiar to people following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Deripaska and his three companies — Rusal, the world's No. 2 aluminum company; Russian energy company EuroSibEnergo; and their parent company, EN+ Group — in April, in retaliation for the Russian election meddling and other hostile acts.

The sanction on Deripaska himself will remain in place, and the Treasury Department has allowed the companies to continue operating since April while they negotiated a settlement with U.S. regulators. Under the binding agreement announced Wednesday, Deripaska will reduce his stake in EN+ to 44.95 percent from 70 percent, won't be able to increase his stake, and won't have access to the proceeds from the sales of his shares or future dividends issued by the companies. Those and other concessions will be overseen by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The announcement was made shortly after the Treasury Department disclosed new sanctions on 15 Russian agents linked to the 2016 election interference, including a former Russian military intelligence officer who reports to Deripaska, according to the U.S. The Treasury Department cited the economic costs to the U.S. and other nations of sanctions against Rusal, echoing talking points in a multimillion-dollar lobbying and legal campaign waged by the companies.

The lifting of sanctions on Deripaska's companies amounts to President Trump "sliding another big gift under Vladimir Putin's Christmas tree," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). He said the agreement "appears to be a shell game brokered by a sanctioned Russian bank, VTB Bank, involving one of Putin's closest buddies, Oleg Deripaska," and he urged Congress to look into the deal. Unless Congress acts in 30 days, the sanctions will automatically be lifted.