Russian opposition group pushing US to sanction ‘next tier’ of Putin enablers

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(WASHINGTON) — Top members of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team are pressing U.S. officials to pursue sanctions against 6,000 Russians who they say are among the “next tier” of those enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

Members of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation met Thursday with members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as officials with the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, the group’s executive director, Vladimir Ashurkov, told ABC News.

Navalny has been held in a Russian jail since January of 2021, while his anti-corruption foundation is based outside of Russia.

Thursday’s meetings were part of a four-day trip to push the U.S. to take action against thousands of Putin supporters who Ashurkov said are outside of the super-rich, multi-billionaire class — and who still have time to decide what they want the future of Russia to look like.

“It’s a lot of officials, not necessarily at the top, but the next tier,” Ashurkov said.

“The average age for them is 45 years old, so they still have a life after Putin,” he said. “And they have to think hard about where they stand on this war and on Putin’s regime.”

Ashurkov said the 6,000 names have already been made public, which “creates for them motivation to step away and distance themselves from Putin’s regime.”

“And that’s what we want to achieve,” Ashurkov said.

Among the Justice Department officials the group met with were members of the department’s Kleptocapture Task Force, which was formed in March to target the assets of Russian oligarchs.

“We’re helping [the task force] with asset tracking for sanctioned individuals,” Ashurkov told ABC News. “We are arguably the most professional investigative outfit in Russia — so I think they benefit from our experience and from our work.”

Ashurkov also said he met with a group of Republican senators that included Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, who Ashurkov said were “generally receptive.”

In addition, Ashurkov said his group was scheduled to meet with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, which handles sanctions programs. But he said there were no meetings scheduled with the White House.

Saying that sanctions alone are not “silver bullets” powerful enough to stop the war in Ukraine, Ashurkov said they’re one of the options available to Western allies to make an impact.

“They all have been really receptive to this,” Ashurkov said of the U.S. officials he had met.

“I think, really, people support the idea,” he said of the proposed sanctions. “I think during this trip we at least got the important lawmakers to be aware of our proposals and to support them.”

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