The US Treasury has told a BBC investigation that it considers Russian President Vladimir Putin to be corrupt. The US government has already imposed sanctions on Mr. Putin’s aides, but it is thought to be the first time it has directly accused him of corruption. His spokesman told the BBC that “none of these questions or issues needs to be answered, as they are pure fiction”. Last week a UK public inquiry said Mr Putin had “probably” approved the murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko.
Litvinenko, a former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent and fierce critic of Mr Putin, was poisoned in London with radioactive polonium in 2006. Adam Szubin, who oversees US Treasury sanctions, has told BBC Panorama that the Russian president is corrupt and that the US government has known this for “many, many years”.
He said: “We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalising those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets. Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption.”
The US government imposed sanctions against a number of Kremlin insiders in 2014 and stated that Vladimir Putin had secret investments in the energy sector. However, the Americans did not directly accuse him of corruption at the time. The sanctions – later expanded to include more individuals and organisations – coincided with similar EU measures against Russia. The trigger for them was Russia’s annexation of Crimea, during political turmoil in Ukraine.