The US has approved new sanctions targeting a handful of Russian oil companies, in what the US State Department described as a “significant and significant escalation of US sanctions against Russia”.
The move is aimed at “ensuring Russia does not conduct any significant activity on its territory”, the US department said in a statement.
The sanctions are designed to target the largest Russian oil company Rosneft, which was accused of “violating international sanctions by its illegal export of oil to Ukraine, including to Ukraine’s nuclear and energy-producing infrastructure”.
Russia denies the accusations, saying the oil industry is not an arms dealer and that the US sanctions are aimed at punishing Russia for alleged interference in the US election.
Rosneff, the world’s third-largest oil producer, has said it is fully cooperating with the US investigation.
The Russian government said the sanctions will not affect Russia’s energy sector, which is already operating with US sanctions.
“The sanctions are being implemented to stop the diversion of resources to the export of the products of the illegal and illegitimate oil industry, which have been the subject of the US economic sanctions,” Rosnefia President Mikhail Fridman told journalists in Moscow.
US President Donald Trump has accused Russia of trying to influence the 2016 US election, saying he believes Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Russian state media has denied any role in the hacking, calling the US claims “absurd”.