US releases list of Russians eligible for sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow did not have any plans to retaliate over the US’ release of a list of Russians eligible for sanctions. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2018

US releases list of Russians eligible for sanctions

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury released a long-awaited list of Russian officials and business leaders eligible for sanctions under a law designed to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the election that brought Donald Trump to power.
The list features the names of most of the senior members in President Vladimir Putin’s administration — 114 politicians altogether — and 96 business people the US considers ‘oligarchs’ close to Putin and worth at least $1 billion each.
The seven-page unclassified list features Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and top officials in Russian intelligence agencies.
Also on the list were the chief executives of big state-owned companies such as energy giant Rosneft and Sberbank. A separate, classified annex lists lower-ranking government officials or Russians worth less than a billion dollars.
Putin said on Tuesday the release of the list was an unfriendly act, but Moscow did not currently plan to retaliate.
“It is, of course, an unfriendly act. It will complicate the difficult situation Russian-American relations are already in, and of course harm international relations as a whole,” Putin said.
Speaking at meeting with election campaign officials in Moscow, Putin said it was “stupid” to treat Russian in the same way as North Korea and Iran, while also asking Moscow to help broker a peace deal on the Korean Peninsula.

But the Russian leader said he still wanted to improve ties with the US and would refrain from any immediate retaliation.
“We were waiting for this list, and I will not hide it, were ready to take retaliatory steps, serious ones, which would have reduced our relations to zero,” Putin said. “For now, we will refrain from these steps. But we will carefully watch how the situation develops.”
Putin joked that he was “offended” the US Treasury had not included his name in a list.
Medvedev said the report will poison ties between the two countries for a long time.
The list was widely expected to infuriate Moscow’s moneyed elite, as it threatens to cut them off from world finance.
Monday was the deadline for its release under a law passed last year by Congress over the objections of Trump, whom critics in the US say has been oddly reluctant to criticize Russia or Putin.
Under the same law, the State Department Monday also declined to punish any US or foreign companies for dealings with Russian defense or intelligence agencies.
It argued this was not necessary because governments around the world have already nixed billions in contracts with Russian arms companies due to the mere threat of US action or secondary sanctions.
US lawmakers passed the law — called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — out of concern that Trump, eager to have warm ties with Putin, might not take tough action to punish Moscow and Russian officials for interfering in US elections and destabilizing Ukraine.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and two congressional panels are probing Russian interference in the election with the aim of helping Trump beat Hillary Clinton, whether the Trump campaign colluded in this effort and whether Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation.
Before leaving office in January of last year, then president Barack Obama imposed some sanctions on Russia over the election affair, targeting four Russian individuals and five entities and expelling 35 Russian diplomats.
In Moscow, the Kremlin said it would take its time to examine the list, which it called “quite unprecedented.”
“It’s not the first day that we live with quite aggressive comments made toward us, so we should not give into emotions,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who is on the list himself. But other Russian officials expressed anger and disappointment.
“We try to explain that sanctions lead us nowhere. We are not afraid of sanctions,” the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, told the TV network Russia 24.

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

Updated 11 December 2019

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

  • Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt
  • During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed criticisms of planned reforms to the euro zone bailout fund on Wednesday, saying the proposals, which have been heavily attacked by right-wing opposition parties, posed no threat to Italy.

Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt, the highest in the euro area as a proportion of national output after Greece’s.

“Italy has nothing to fear ... its debt is fully sustainable, as the main international institutions, including the (EU) Commission have said,” Conte told parliament ahead of a European Council meeting this week to discuss the reform.

He repeated that Rome would not agree to any restrictions on banks holding sovereign debt.

During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties, saying they appeared aimed at undermining Italy’s membership of the single currency.

“Some of the positions that have emerged during the public debate have unveiled the ill-concealed hope of bringing our country out of the euro zone or even from the European Union,” Conte said.

The League and Brothers of Italy have attacked the planned reforms to the ESM, which they say will open the door for a forced restructuring of Italy’s public debt that would hit Italian banks and savers who invest in government bonds.

Some members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement have made similar criticisms, adding to tensions with their partner in the ruling coalition, the center-left Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from 5 Star and the Democratic Party appeared to have smoothed over their differences on Wednesday, however, agreeing to drop demands for a veto on measures that could make it easier to reach a debt restructuring accord.

In a final resolution, they scrapped calls for a veto on so-called single limb collective action clauses (CACS), that limit the ability of individual investors to delay any restructuring agreement by holding out for better terms.

Under the new system, restructuring would go ahead after a single, aggregate vote by bondholders regarding all affected bonds while the clauses currently in place require an aggregate vote as well as an individual bond-by-bond vote.

Italy has asked to clarify that the new clauses will not rule out the so-called sub-aggregation, allowing separate votes for different groups of bond issuances to protect small investors, a government official told Reuters.