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U.S. sanctions individuals, companies linked to Yevgeniy Prigozhin

The Trump administration on Wednesday leveled more sanctions against Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA
The Trump administration on Wednesday leveled more sanctions against Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has sanctioned a network of eight people and seven companies linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-connected Russian businessman, and the Russian Federal Security Service.

"Yevgeniy Prigozhin has an international network of supporters to spread his malign political and economic influence around the globe," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The United States will continue to target the ability of Prigozhin to conduct operations globally."

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Prigozhin has previously been the target of the United States, being blacklist as one of his companies, the Internet Research Agency, which the Treasury described as a "Russia troll farm," has been implicated in the meddling of U.S. elections in 2016 and 2018. He has also been accused of managing and financing Wagner, a U.S.-designated Russian Ministry of Defense proxy.

In July, the ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin was blacklisted over fomenting disorder in Sudan where Wagner operated under front mining companies, and the Treasury said its sanctions Wednesday target Prigozhin's abilities to advance Russia's influence in the Central African Republic.

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The Treasury said Wednesday that Prigozhin is connected to mining, security and logistics companies in CAR with his operations there reportedly coordinated by the Russian Federation's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense.

"Today's action also builds on the U.S. government's efforts to promote accountability for the Russian government's intelligence organizations, including the Federal Security Service, for perpetrating an array of destabilizing activities, such as conducting malicious cyber activities and interfering in elections, by further targeting networks support their activities," the Treasury said.

The sanctions target Russian-based M Finans and CAR-based Lobaye Invest over their connections to previously designated companies and for being owned by Prigozhin.

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Dmitry Sergeevich Sytii, an employee of Prigozhin and the founder of Lobaye Invest; Yevgeniy Khodotov, who has served as Lobaye Invest's direction; and Alexander Yuryevich Kuzin, who is also an employee of Prigozhin in CAR were sanctioned Wednesday, the Treasury said.

Okeanos, a Russian-based underwater technology company, which has a long history of working with Russian government agencies, and four of its senior employees -- Elena Nikolaevna Ivanova, Boris Aleksandrovich Gaykovich, Nadezhda Leonidovna Kuchumova and Vladislav Yuryevich Zanin have been sanctioned for providing restricted diving material and technology to the FSB that was used in the Crimea region in Ukraine.

Optima Freight OY and its controller Nikita Gennadievitch Kovalevskij as well as three Finland based-companies GCH Finland OY, Unicum Trade OY and ACEX OY were also designated on Wednesday for helping FSB evade sanctions.

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"Nikita Kovalevskij, and his company, Optima Freight, through an illicit scheme violated U.S. export laws in the acquisition of sensitive controlled U.S. maritime technologies," Stacey, R. Moy, special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division at the FBI Washington Field Office, said in a statement.

The sanctions Wednesday freeze all U.S. assets of the blacklisted individuals and companies while prohibiting American citizens from doing business with them.

"This action builds on the U.S. government's efforts to promote accountability for the Russian government's use of proxy actors and intelligence organizations, including the FSB, for perpetrating an array of destabilizing activities, such as conducting malicious cyber activities and interfering in elections, by further targeting networks supporting their activities," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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