New Ukraine sanctions target Russian oligarch that U.S. officials tried to link to Bout

Sweeping new financial sanctions arrayed against Russian banks and officials by the U.S. in response to Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine include an oligarch that American authorities once tried to link to jailed Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout.

Soon after U.S. President Joe Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the massive strike against Ukrainian armed forces, American and allied sanctions were unveiled against major Russian banks and business and government leaders in Putin’s inner circle. Those individuals include Igor Sechin, who has been chief executive office of Roseneft, Russia’s state oil company, and until 2012, served as Putin’s deputy prime minister.

The U.S. sanctions named both Sechin and his son, Sergei, stating that those targeted were among “individuals who have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian state, and have elevated their family members into some of the highest position of powers in the country. It also includes financial figures who sit atop Russia’s largest financial institutions and are responsible for providing the resources necessary to support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

(Update, March 3, 2022: The New York Times reported that France has seized a yacht belonging Sechin. “France’s economy ministry said in a statement that French customs officers had seized a yacht belonging to Igor Sechin, a close associate of Mr. Putin’s who runs Rosneft, the Russian state oil giant, at a shipyard in La Ciotat, a town on the Mediterranean coast. Mr. Sechin is the main shareholder of the company that owns the yacht, which was in La Ciotat for repairs but was “preparing to urgently cast off” when the customs officers arrived.”)

After Viktor Bout was arrested by U.S. and Thai law enforcement in Bangkok in 2008 in a sting operation, unconfirmed reports surfaced suggesting Bout had links to Sechin because both men had worked in Mozambique in the 1980s for the Soviet government. In several profiles of Igor Sechin, Western media has reported that Sechin served as a Russian government translator in Mozambique in the late 1980s.

The book “Merchant of Death” reported that Bout “served in a military aviation regiment, including a two-year stint in Mozambique, most likely his introduction to Africa,” where he transported a flood of guns and munitions from Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But the book made no mention of Sechin. Bout later dismissed the claim that the two worked together and no credible information has yet surfaced to prove it.

After Bout was extradited to the U.S. to stand trial and was convicted of conspiracy charges in 2012 and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, his wife, Alla, was quoted in the Moscow Times that during her husband’s captivity, U.S. authorities had pressured Bout and offered to reduce his prison time if he provided evidence against Igor Sechin.

“Victor was asked to give evidence against Sechin, who the Americans claimed was his boss,” Alla Bout told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “Victor answered honestly that he didn’t work for Sechin and did not know him personally. He refused the offer and received 25 years in prison.”

The U.S. Treasury sanctions, filed by the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls, lists Sechin and his son as “specially designated nationals”: “SECHIN, Ivan Igorevich (a.k.a. SECHIN, Ivan (Cyrillic: СЕЧИН, Иван)), Moscow, Russia; Shvedskiy Typik 3 KV38, Moscow 125009, Russia; DOB 03 Jan 1989; POB St. Petersburg, Russia; nationality Russia; Gender Male; Passport 722759197 (Russia) issued 24 Jan 2013 expires 24 Jan 2023 (individual) [RUSSIA-EO14024] (Linked To: SECHIN, Igor Ivanovich).”