US Imposes New Sanctions on Russia, Iran over Detained Americans


On Thursday, April 27, the Biden administration issued the first wave of sanctions against Russia and Iran for hostage-taking and the unlawful detention of US citizens abroad.


The sanctions target Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO) for “being responsible for or complicit in, directly or indirectly engaged in or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing the wrongful detention of a U.S. national abroad.”


On the condition of anonymity, two senior administration officials told CNBC that Thursday’s measures were in the works before Russian authorities detained American citizen Evan Gershkovich last month.


Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal journalist, was arrested in late March on suspicion of espionage. The State Department has formally moved to deem Gershkovich’s arrest unlawful, releasing further resources to obtain his release.


The Biden administration and The Wall Street Journal’s leadership have refuted Russian assertions that Gershkovich is a spy.


The administration has identified at least two American citizens who are wrongfully detained in Russia and three in Iran, along with one legal permanent U.S. resident.


One administration official said relevant families were briefed on the new sanctions ahead of Thursday’s announcement.


The Department of Treasury also announced sanctions on the following individuals in Iran:


An IRGC-IO counterintelligence official, Ruhollah Bazghandi, has been implicated in the imprisonment of foreign captives held in Iran. According to the department, his work for the IRGC-IO includes assassination plots against journalists, Israeli citizens, and other Iranian opponents.


According to the department, Mohammad Kazemi, head of the IRGC-IO, controls activities suppressing civil society in Iran, including the regime’s crackdown on protesters around the country in response to the killing of Mahsa Amini. In October, he was identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.


Mohamad Mehdi Sayyari, co-deputy chief of the IRGC-IO, has been directly involved in arranging logistics for prisoners in Iran.


Mohammad Hasan Mohagheghi, co-deputy chief of the IRGC-IO, serves as a liaison between senior IRGC officials and IRGC-IO officials on counterespionage operations in Syria, the department said.

“Our action is a warning to those around the world who would wrongfully detain U.S. nationals, the potential consequences of their actions,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.


“These actors in Russia and Iran have tried to use Americans for political leverage or to seek concessions from the United States. These actions threaten the stability and integrity of the international political system. It also threatens the safety of U.S. nationals and other persons abroad,” the person added.


“Sanctions are meant to change behavior and to incentivize better behavior and we hope that these can contribute to doing that now and into the future,” the second official said.

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