Kyiv Post Publishes Editorial By Sanctions2020 Founder

11 05 2019

The Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s leading English-language newspaper, has published an editorial by Sanctions2020 founder Anna Talimonchuk.

The article can be read below, or at this link

Why I Started a Grassroots Movement to Get More Russian Elites Sanctioned

In 2018 a Russian oligarch living in Greece was secretly funding efforts to prevent the then-country of Macedonia from changing its name and becoming part of the European Union and NATO, the New York Times has reported.

The effort fell apart when U.S. intelligence intercepted the communications of the oligarch, Ivan Savvidis, and alerted both the Macedonian and Greek governments to what was going on. Greek leaders, who had leaned against Macedonia changing its name to North Macedonia so it could join the European political and military alliances, reversed course after seeing the American intelligence.

Yet Savvidis has not been sanctioned for financing the sometimes violent protests in Macedonia and Greece against North Macedonia joining the EU and NATO.

He isn’t alone. Dozens of other Russian elites either overtly or tacitly support the country’s aggressive foreign policy — one that has led to the seizure of Crimea, Russia supporting a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit election, and Russia supporting despotic regimes in Syria and Venezuela.

I decided to do something about the fact that so many Russian elites continue to kick up their heels with impunity in Russia and across the world. An ordinary Ukrainian with no political or activist experience, I started the Sanctions 2020 campaign in March 2018 to try to get a lot more of these elites sanctioned.

Why me? Because regular Russian forces wounded my father at Ilovaisk in eastern Ukraine in 2014, a battle that 7,000 Russian regulars joined to prevent Ukrainian troops from defeating the separatists there.   

Russia resorted to a despicable tactic to chop up the Ukrainian forces it had surrounded. After agreeing to give them safe passage out of the battle zone, the Russians opened fire when they were leaving unprotected. Hundreds of Ukrainian troops died in the massacre.

The Russians’ treachery at Ilovaisk is what finally made me resolved to come up with a grassroots way to counter Russian aggression. I wanted a movement that ordinary citizens could spearhead.

The goal of Sanctions 2020 is simple: To get more Russian elites — both government officials and oligarchs — sanctioned, so their collective pain convinces the Kremlin to start backing away from its aggression toward other countries.

The campaign’s initial objective will be to get 10 more influential Russians sanctioned. After that, we will seek additional sanctions in groups of 10 elites at a time. The hope is to have dozens more influential Russians sanctioned before the end of 2020.

Savvidis is at the top of the list of 10 elites that the campaign is targeting first. Also on the list are Russia’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Chaika, who has become rich by turning a blind’s eye to corruption across Russia, and his younger son, Igor, who has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars by rigging government contracts.

Another person on the list is Sergei Roldugin, a cellist who is a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Roldugin was at the center of a scheme to move $2 billion from Russia — much of it assumed to be Putin’s — through shell companies and into Western banks accounts, property and other assets, according to the leaked documents known as the Panama Papers.

Also among the first 10 Sanction 2020 targets are the property-investment partners God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliyev. The two have made billions of dollars in illegal operations at the Moscow-area wholesale goods complexes they operate, including sales of counterfeit name-brand goods and money-laundering, according to Western and Russian journalists.

And then there’s Vladimir Romanov, a dual citizen of Russia and Lithuania who fled Lithuania five years ago to escape charges that he embezzled $35 million from the bank that he ran there. Russia is giving him sanctuary while knowing about the case.

He’ll top our next list of 10.

As long as Russian elites like these continue to be rich and powerful through their ties with the regime, they will keep supporting the Kremlin’s aggression.

By getting sanctions slapped on a lot more of them, we hope to raise their collective discontent to the point that the Kremlin thinks twice about continuing down its aggressive foreign-policy path.

Anna Talimonchuk is a Ukrainian activist and the founder of Sanctions2020.

Please join me in pushing for sanctions against dozens more of the Russian officials who shape the country’s aggressive policies.