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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the Trump administration has taken a "hostile step" by publishing a long-awaited list of 114 politicians and 96 oligarchs who have flourished under his reign.
The list was ordered by Congress as part of a retaliation over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but the White House surprised observers by announcing that it had decided not to impose sanctions on any of the named individuals for now.
Some lawmakers accused President Donald Trump of giving Russia a free pass. Putin himself even joked that he felt "slighted" that his name wasn't there.
"What is the point of this? I don't understand,” Putin said in Moscow, expressing dismay at the scope of the officials and business people listed.
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"Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies, so all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list," he said.
"We were waiting for this list to come out, and I'm not going to hide it: we were going to take steps in response … serious steps, that could push our relations to the nadir,” Putin said. “But we're going to refrain from taking these steps for now.”
The idea behind the list was to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Putin's tenure just as the U.S. works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically. The Trump administration had until Monday to publish it; the Treasury Department released it with little fanfare 12 minutes before midnight.
The political roll call is a who's who of Kremlin-connected Russians in the country's elite class, while the list of oligarchs is a carbon copy of the Forbes magazine's Russian billionaires' rankings, only arranged alphabetically. It makes no distinction between those who are tied to the Kremlin and those who are not. Some of the people on the list have long fallen out with the Kremlin or are widely considered to have built their fortunes independently of the Russian government.
Officials said more names, including those of less senior politicians and businesspeople worth less than $1 billion, are on a classified version of the list being provided to Congress.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee for the upper chamber of Russian parliament, said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence failed to find compromising material on Russian politicians and "ended up copying the Kremlin phone book."
Under the same law that authorized the "Putin list," the government was required to slap sanctions on anyone doing "significant" business with people linked to Russia's defense and intelligence agencies, using a blacklist the U.S. released in October. But the administration decided it didn't need to penalize anyone, even though several countries have had multibillion-dollar arms deals with Russia in the works.
State Department officials said the threat of sanctions had been deterrent enough, and that "sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed."
New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was "fed up" and that Trump's administration had chosen to "let Russia off the hook yet again."