RIA News Agency, Tycoons Added To Ukraine Sanctions List

Ukraine has banned Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti, according to a recently expanded list of prominent Russians and entities subjected to Ukrainian sanctions.

The updated list published on May 24 contains 1,748 individuals and 756 legal entities -- up from 1,228 individuals and 468 legal entities one year ago.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on May 14 expanding the sanctions to mirror those of the United States, but the document posted three days later on his website did not carry any names.

According to the new sanctions list by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, the RIA Novosti office and the Interselekt company, which carried out all the agency's economic activities in Kyiv, are banned for three years.

Sanctions include the blocking of assets, limiting or stopping the provision of telecommunications services, and blocking access to their website

Ukraine's decision amounts to "political censorship," RIA Novosti quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

The new sanctions were "an indicator of the impotence" of the current Ukrainian "regime," said Dmitry Kiselev, the director of the public media conglomerate Rossia Segodnya, the parent company of RIA Novosti.

On May 17, a Ukrainian court ordered the head of RIA Novosti's branch in Ukraine held for two months on charges of high treason in a case that drew angry criticism from Moscow and expressions of concern from media watchdogs.

Kirill Vyshinsky was detained in Kyiv two days earlier by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), and his apartment and the news outlet's office were searched.

The SBU accused RIA Novosti Ukraine of participating in a "hybrid information war" waged by Russia against Ukraine.

SBU officials said Vyshinsky, who has dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenship, received financial support from Russia via other media companies registered in Ukraine in order to disguise links between RIA Novosti Ukraine and Rossia Segodnya.

Ukraine's expanded sanctions list also includes aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, Aleksei Miller, CEO of Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom, tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, the main owner of the Renova holding group, as well as Igor Rotenberg -- the son of billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of President Vladimir Putin -- gold magnate Suleiman Kerimov, and oil tycoon Vladimir Bogdanov.

Restrictions on Deripaska could affect the operation of his Mykolaiv Alumina plant in southern Ukraine -- one of the largest assets of his Rusal aluminum firm.

Kyiv first slapped sanctions on Russian firms and entities after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

More than 10,300 people have been killed in the fighting between the separatists and Ukrainian government troops since it broke out in April 2014.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters