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US sanctions alleged jet fuel smugglers for Russian forces in Syria

The US on Thursday (September 26th) announced new sanctions targeting an alleged jet fuel smuggling operation to supply Russian forces operating in Syria, AFP reported.

Three individuals, five shipping vessels and a Moscow-based front company participated in a scheme to move money and fuel to Russian forces supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the US Treasury announced.

"Assad's despotic regime is under an international spotlight for using chemical weapons and committing atrocities against innocent Syrian civilians and they rely on these types of illicit networks to stay in power," Sigal Mandelker, Treasury's undersecretary for counterterrorism, said in a statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation found the Moscow-based Maritime Assistance LLC was a front for the Russian shipping company Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group, which had been placed under US sanctions in September 2016.

After Sovfracht was blacklisted, Maritime Assistance carried out business on its behalf, selling and shipping jet fuel in 2016 and 2017 to Banias, Syria for use by Russian military aircraft.

"Russia's support of the Assad regime enabled its continued bombing campaigns that destroyed numerous hospitals, schools and public spaces, resulting in civilian deaths," the statement said.

In addition to Maritime Assistance, the Treasury Department on Thursday blacklisted three managers from Sovfracht for their alleged roles in the scheme: Ivan Okorokov, director of Marine Transport, Karen Stepanyan, deputy director, and Ilya Loginov, deputy general director for legal support.

Five vessels allegedly involved were also added to the list.

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