From ‘Head of Putin’ to Editor-in-Chief of RT: Names Should Be on EU Sanctions List | Ukraine

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JThe EU has approved asset freezes and travel bans against various Russian individuals and entities in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

The list of those targeted has not been officially confirmed, but here are five of the most prominent names the Guardian has seen on a draft list.

Sergei Shoigu

Russia’s defense minister has overseen military buildup on Ukraine’s borders and would manage the war effort should Russia decide to launch a broader invasion. He is a rare member of Putin’s inner circle who has not served in KGB, military or intelligence circles. He was emergency situations minister from 1991 to 2012, before being appointed defense minister by Putin with the mission of modernizing the Russian army.

Alongside Putin’s top aides, Shoigu has been involved in key decisions, such as the annexation of Crimea, due to his surveillance of the military and the aggressive GRU intelligence agency. He also has direct access to Putin, including during their regular hunting and fishing trips together in Siberia. Shoigu hails from Tuva, a Buddhist republic in Siberia that borders Mongolia.

Yevgeny Prigozhin

The ‘Head of Putin’ is the financier behind a network of paid trolls who allegedly tried to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The St Petersburg-based businessman was nicknamed ‘Putin’s chef’ because of the restaurants and catering businesses where he made his fortune in the 1990s. Since then his business interests have extended to contracts government and other businesses, including allegedly a troll factory, a private military company, and global influence operations that landed him on numerous sanctions lists.

According to the US Treasury Department, Prigozhin is the Russian financier of the Internet Research Agency, a network of websites and paid trolls that allegedly tried to influence the 2016 US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Prigozhin is “also considered the financier behind [the] the Wagner Private Military Company, a proxy force appointed by the Russian Defense Ministry,” the Treasury Department said. The company’s alleged activities in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan and Libya have “generated insecurity and incited violence against innocent civilians”, the Treasury Department said.

Igor Shuvalov

Shuvalov heads Vnesheconombank, a key source of funding for Kremlin projects.
Shuvalov heads Vnesheconombank, a key source of funding for Kremlin projects. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Igor Shuvalov is a sanctioned Russian politician and businessman who heads Vnesheconombank (VEB), the Russian financial institution that is a key source of funding for the Kremlin’s priority projects. These have included the Sochi Olympics, among others. Shuvalov previously served as first deputy prime minister in the cabinets of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin before leaving the government and was appointed chairman of the VEB in 2018.

He was previously one of the most important liberal figures in government until they were largely ousted in favor of Putin’s security hawks as dominant advisers. Shuvalov, who was considered a close ally of Putin nearly a decade ago, owned property in London and was targeted for his wealth by jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who demanded a police investigation.

Maria Zakharova

The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry is a “central figure in government propaganda”.
The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry is a “central figure in government propaganda”. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

As tensions around Ukraine came to a head last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a “request to the mass disinformation outlets of the United States and Great Britain Brittany – Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Sun, etc. – to announce the schedule for our ‘invasions’ for the coming year. I’d like to plan my vacation. This was a typically mocking response from the carrier. chief spokesman of the Russian diplomatic service.

Zakharova is a career diplomat but not very diplomatic. She described a former US ambassador as ‘incompetent’, said the importance of D-Day should not be overstated on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and joked about sending a reporter asking questions on human rights violations in Chechnya in the region.

A graduate of the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, who speaks English and Chinese, she is celebrated in Russian state media for her combative style, evident in her torrent of Facebook posts attacking Western governments. The EU called her “a central figure in government propaganda”.

Margaret Simonian

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the RT network.
The editor of the RT network is said to have a direct line to the Kremlin on her desk. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Margarita Simonyan was just 25 when she was chosen to be the first editor-in-chief of Russia Today, the state channel broadcasting in English and other languages, later described by French President Emmanuel Macron as a “false propaganda” agency.

Now known simply as RT, it has treated its small UK viewership to guests from Jeremy Corbyn to Nigel Farage, conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims about ‘genocide’ in Ukraine. Simonyan, now the editor-in-chief of the RT network, reportedly has a direct line to the Kremlin on her desk and received an award from Putin for “objectivity” after the annexation of Crimea. She mocked reports of her impending addition to sanctions lists. “Maria Zakharova and I took out our handkerchiefs,” she said, adding that it was time to cry “a little.”

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