WASHINGTON — Russian activists with Aleksei A. Navalny’s anti-corruption organization are lobbying members of Congress to impose fresh sanctions on 6,000 officials and business leaders who have benefited from President Vladimir V. Putin’s patronage, a sweeping measure that they hope will force his backers to distance themselves from the Russian president.
Meeting with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill this week, officials with Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation pressed lawmakers to approve travel bans and asset seizures targeting “officials, oligarchs, propagandists,” arguing that such punitive measures would undermine political support for Mr. Putin.
The United States has already imposed crushing economic sanctions on Russia’s banks and personal penalties on top government officials and oligarchs, including Mr. Putin and Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, enacting measures aimed at freezing their assets.
But Mr. Navalny’s organization contends that targeting midlevel officials who have not yet been sanctioned would erode a crucial bloc of Mr. Putin’s domestic supporters, many of whom, they say, are fairly young and have a chance for life after Mr. Putin.
“This should be a very, very serious incentive for them to jump ship right now — the fact that you will no longer see your wonderful mansion in France or in Montenegro,” said Anna Veduta, the vice president of the organization.
Vladimir Ashurkov, the foundation’s executive director, said the sanctions imposed so far by the United States and its allies have already caused a wave of resignations among board members and executives in state companies. “So sanctions are working; they’re creating a motivation in people’s minds,” he said in an interview on Thursday between meetings on Capitol Hill.
Foundation leaders declined to weigh in on whether the Biden administration should move to sell off assets seized under sanctions, rather than simply freezing them. That idea has gained momentum in Congress. In particular, Mr. Ashurkov said, a proposal to seize frozen funds in United States bank accounts that belong to Russians “is not a decision that should be taken lightly.”
The lobbying effort came in the same week that the Senate overwhelmingly passed a $40 billion military and humanitarian aid bill for Kyiv. But cognizant of rising aversion in Republican ranks to spending more money on Ukraine, the activists have been pitching the sanctions to lawmakers as a cost-free way to counter Mr. Putin.
Members of Congress, particularly Republicans, “are very happy to see that there are other measures that will not force them to spend these billions,” Ms. Veduta said.
Source: NY Times