The Kremlin has said that Russia has no oligarchs, following reports that the U.S. is preparing to enact a new wave of sanctions against Russian tycoons.
Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Washington was planning to sanction Russian oligarchs as early as this week under a law targeting Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
“We deem the phrase ‘Russian oligarchs’ inappropriate. It’s been a long time since Russia had oligarchs. There are no oligarchs in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying on Thursday.
When asked about the possible U.S. sanctions, Peskov told reporters that he would not respond to the media reports, but said that relations between Moscow and Washington were tense.
"We'll wait for something to happen or an official announcement," Peskov said.
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has questioned two Russian oligarchs about election meddling and requested an interview with a third oligarch in an ongoing investigation into suspected election interference, CNN reported on Wednesday.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised long-delayed sanctions as early as March of this year. President Donald Trump, who has faced criticism for doing too little to punish Russia for alleged election meddling, signed a Russia sanctions bill into law in August 2017.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in January that 1990’s-era oligarchs were replaced by “responsible” businessmen as Russia was bracing for the U.S. to release its so-called “Kremlin List” of 210 names linked to President Vladimir Putin’s government.
The “Kremlin List” was widely criticized both by supporters and critics of the Russian government for being a carbon-copy of Forbes magazine’s list of richest Russians and the Kremlin’s own online list of officials.
Reuters contributed reporting to this article.