Senate Hints It Doesn’t Oppose Sanctions Relief for Russian Linked to Putin, Manafort

Oleg Deripaska will relinquish majority ownership stake in three companies in exchange for sanctions relief from U.S. Treasury

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., delivered a cautious statement Wednesday supporting the deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee signaled Wednesday that they do not oppose the Treasury Department’s decision to loosen sanctions on three companies owned by a Russian oligarch with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and key players in Ukrainian politics, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Congress has 30 days to nix the deal Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has struck with Oleg Deripaska, who currently owns the largest non-Chinese aluminum producing company in the world and two other multibillion-dollar energy companies.

Deripaska, who is close with Putin and for years bankrolled Manafort’s political consulting work in Ukraine, will cede business control and his majority ownership stakes in the companies in exchange for sanctions relief, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday.

Deripaska’s net worth shrank by nearly 50 percent after the Trump administration enacted a congressional sanctions package in April that included a robust response to Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Two of his companies took multibillion-dollar hits to their value.

Republican Chairman Richard Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Democratic Vice Chairman Mark Warner delivered a cautious statement Wednesday that didn’t signal opposition to the deal — as long as it is rigorously monitored.

“Today’s announcement ... does not change the fact that Mr. Deripaska, his employees, and his companies work at Vladimir Putin’s behest and operate as de facto representatives of the Russian government — a government that has occupied and intimidated its neighbors, sought to disrupt free and fair elections, violated nuclear treaties, and continued to wage influence campaigns to undermine western democracies, including our own.”

“This deal,” they added, “will require constant monitoring to ensure that neither Mr. Deripaska nor the Russian government violate the terms of the agreement.”

Mnuchin assured lawmakers that the Treasury Department will have “unprecedented levels” of access to the companies to ensure that Putin and Deripaska have cooperated with the deal’s terms.

“The companies will be subject to ongoing compliance and will face severe consequences if they fail to comply,” Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury Department also announced Wednesday it is placing sanctions on 15 members of the GRU, a Russian military intelligence organization that attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and assassinate a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.

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