U.S. belatedly compiles list of off-limits Russians

Josh Lederman
Associated Press

Washington — The State Department is warning countries and companies they risk tough U.S. sanctions if they do business with more than three dozen Russian companies, including arms trader Rosoboronexport and Almaz-Antey, a state-owned missile manufacturer.

The department on Friday published of list of businesses and individuals linked to Russia’s defense and intelligence agencies. The list, nearly a month overdue, was required by a sweeping new sanctions law Congress passed in July and President Donald Trump reluctantly signed into law a few weeks later.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., two of the Trump administration’s most vocal critics on the delay, said the guidance issued by State “is a step in the right direction.”

The sanctions package was Congress’ response to Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year and to its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

The message the law and the list send is straightforward: The United States can’t bar third parties from doing business with these companies affiliated with Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors. But it can decide to freeze their assets and lock them out of the U.S. financial system if they do.

With pressure building after an Oct. 1 deadline for the list was missed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved the list and authorized its release to certain members of Congress late Thursday.

Tillerson has said one reason for the delay has been concern about how the sanctions may affect businesses and major U.S. allies who do business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. Turkey, a NATO ally, has a deal with the Kremlin to buy the S-400, Russia’s most advanced air defense missile system. And key security partner Saudi Arabia recently struck an array of deals with Moscow, including contracts for Russian weapons.

Export firm Rostec and Russia’s biggest shipbuilding firm, United Shipbuilding Corporation, are also on the list.