December 5, 2018 / 6:48 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Sen. Menendez says U.S. sanctions on Russia's Deripaska should remain

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WASHINGTON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday urged the Trump administration not to waive or remove sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska or the two companies he controls.

In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Senator Bob Menendez cited reports that Treasury was considering such a move and noted the department's own analysis says the oligarch is accused of crimes from blackmail to murder.

"I see no reason to remove sanctions against Mr. Deripaska, and until he divests from and relinquishes control of Rusal and EN+, there is no justification to remove the sanctions on those companies," he wrote.

The U.S. Treasury Department last month postponed a Dec. 12 deadline for Deripaska to reduce his holdings in the companies, giving the Russian tycoon until Jan. 7.

Treasury in April imposed the sanctions on Deripaska and several companies in which he is a large shareholder, citing "malign activities" by Russia as well as allegations of past crimes by Deripaska himself.

In his letter, Menendez outlines Deripaska's close ties with the Kremlin and said changes to the sanctions would meet with strong opposition in Congress.

Rusal is the world's largest aluminum producer outside China.

"The goal is not to put EN+ or Rusal out of business given the global implications for the aluminum industry and the potential impact on our close allies in Europe," Menendez said.

But the Treasury Department must ensure that Deripaska relinquishes his control of both entities and no longer benefits from them, he said. (Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Doina Chiacu; editing by David Gregorio and G Crosse)

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