Russia has imposed sanctions on 1,271 US citizens. For many, it is a source of pride.


A Harvard astrophysicist. A Silicon Valley billionaire. Hollywood actors. convicted murderers.

These are part of the small but slowly growing list of Americans living under a strange sentence that has proven a source of pride, bewilderment and, in some cases, dismay: Russian sanctions.

Some 1,271 American citizens made the Moscow “Stop List,” published online by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Washington has increasingly used sanctions against individuals as a foreign policy tool of choice, using the US financial system as a hammer or a scalpel to cut off its enemies or those of its allies. Russia has been the subject of crushing US sanctions since its invasion of Ukraine in February: Washington has imposed sanctions on more than 1,300 Russians in recent years and on more than 1,000 Russian legal entities. Sanctions prevent designated individuals from doing business with U.S. companies or individuals and often result in a hefty penalty.

In an act of apparent diplomatic desperation, or perhaps for the theater of it, Russia has tried to respond in kind – and come up against the harsh one-sidedness of American economic power. Russia’s stop list is a fundamentally asymmetrical response, and it is not weighted in favor of Moscow.

Americans who have found themselves under Russian sanctions include celebrities: Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Morgan Freeman, all of whom appear to have drawn Moscow’s ire over expressions of support for Ukraine.

Politicians, including President Biden, are also on the list, as are executives, such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

But many of the names included are far less familiar and, in some cases, confusing. While some come with descriptions justifying the designation (Freeman, for example, is dubbed a “well-known film actor” who the Russian Foreign Ministry said criticized Russia in 2017), three dozen on the list are simply described as “American citizens”. .”

“To the best of my knowledge … I am still the only astrophysicist who has been sanctioned by the Kremlin,” said Benjamin Schmitt, project development scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Some names in the list appear to be misspelled. Some of the people included, it seems, are no longer alive.

Unlike Russian oligarchs, known for their travels and dealings in the West, US citizens rarely have assets on Russian territory to seize. Indeed, there are no public reports of people on the list having frozen assets in Russia.

Annie Froehlich, a lawyer with the Cooley firm who works on sanctions and export controls (but who is not, as the Stop List says, a former employee of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control), said stated that while US sanctions served political purposes, it was unclear whether Russian designations could do the same.

“It just seems to me to be trying to cast a really wide net,” said Froehlich, who added that while she was unsettled by her inclusion on the roster, she was happy to be a spot behind Freeman.

Many on the list scoff at its impact.

“It’s usually an honor to be on the sanctions list, so it’s not going to affect me negatively,” said Francis Fukuyama, a public scholar and senior fellow at Stanford University who had been singled out. by Moscow.

“What an honor,” Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation, wrote on Twitter in June. DC Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who pushed to name a street after a murdered Russian opposition politician, also said she was “honoured” to be included.

There was an affront – albeit largely sarcastic. Rob Reiner, the director of “This Is Spinal Tap,” told Deadline earlier this year that he was “heartbroken” to be included.

The list, aside from the lack of punch, serves as a summary of Moscow’s grievances against the United States.

It names politicians from across the political spectrum – but not former President Donald Trump or many of his close allies – and their family members, as well as US officials linked to the imposition of sanctions on Russia. Alongside them: US officials and former soldiers linked to Guantánamo Bay detention camp and abuses of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison – sanctions announced by Moscow in 2014, in apparent retaliation for human rights sanctions imposed by the United States at the time.

Others include law enforcement officials, lawyers and judges involved in high-profile cases against Russian citizens. There are also names linked to Chabad, an ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism labeled as a cult by Moscow.

About 30 names on the list are linked to cases where a child adopted from Russia suffered alleged abuse. Moscow banned American adoption of Russian children in 2012, naming the law after a child who died of heat stroke in a car in Virginia.

Some included are serving a prison sentence, with no hope of immediate release. It’s unlikely they were planning a visit to Russia anytime soon.

“Being sanctioned was a pretty big surprise to me, because I’ve never held a position in the US government, unlike most of the other people on the list,” said Kathryn Stoner, a researcher at the University. from Stanford who did extensive research on Russia. decades. “One of my kids said jokingly, ‘It’s always nice to be noticed, Mom.'”

“Yes, that’s me” on the list, said Rich Eychaner, a Des Moines-based entrepreneur who works to support LGBTQ rights around the world. “LGBTQ activists scare Russians very much.”

Some do not know why they are facing Russian sanctions. “I can’t think of any explanation that makes sense at this point in my life,” Leon Spies, an Iowa-based attorney, told local politics blog Bleeding Heartland in May. “I was anti-Communist as a kid when nuclear annihilation was a daily nightmare, but almost everyone was.”

Fukuyama is among the best-known scholars on the list. The political scientist, famous for his theory of the “end of history” with the collapse of the Soviet Union, discovered that he was included via Twitter. He believes he was included because of his work with the Stanford Sanctions Group, which is headed by the Obama administration’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and also includes Stoner.

Like Fukuyama, many view their listing as a minor inconvenience, if not an honorable sacrifice.

“I have been a vocal critic of Putin and his regime since 1999,” said Alexander Motyl, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Then it’s high time that the Russians recognize my work!”

Kristina Hook, a genocide scholar who is among those under Russian sanctions, said Ukrainians are the ones seeing the real ramifications for defying Russia.

“The consequences of not speaking out and using my technical knowledge on the subject of genocide to advise decision-makers would be far worse for me than anything the Kremlin can do,” Hook said, noting that she had been among those who shared the argument that Russia’s actions in Ukraine meet scientific and legal definitions of genocide.

But others have more mixed feelings. Some journalists, including Susan Glasser of The New Yorker, David Ignatius of The Post and Aric Toller of BellingCat, are on the list. “Some Americans might consider Russia’s permanent ban a treat, but I’m not one of them,” Ignatius wrote last year. “I’ve visited the country half a dozen times, starting in the early 1980s, and enjoyed every visit.”

“It’s a country that fascinates me and has been at the center of my entire professional life,” Stoner said. But “that won’t stop me from writing or saying what I want about Russia, as I always have”.

Russia has imposed sanctions on 1,271 US citizens. For many, it is a source of pride. – News 24