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US imposes sanctions on Russia, Iran

The Biden administration has on Thursday announced a first round of sanctions against Russia and Iran over what they term wrongful detention of US citizens abroad.

The sanctions are aimed at Russia’s Federal Security Service, often known as the FSB, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Organization, or IRGC-IO, for “being responsible for or complicit in, directly or indirectly engaged in or responsible for ordering, controlling or otherwise directing the wrongful detention of a US national abroad.”

Two senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity per ground rules established by the White House, said Thursday’s sanctions were underway as Russian authorities detained American citizen Evan Gershkovich last month.

Gershkovich, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, was arrested in late March on allegations of espionage as the State Department has formally moved to declare Gershkovich’s detention a wrongful one, which opens up additional resources to try and secure his release.

Both the Biden administration and The Wall Street Journal leadership have denied Russian claims that Gershkovich is a spy.

The administration has identified at least two American citizens who are wrongfully detained in Russia and three in Iran, along with one legal permanent US resident.

According to one administration official, the relevant families were briefed on the new sanctions ahead of Thursday’s announcement.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas