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    Times When Russia Had Oligarchs Long Gone - Kremlin

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow has not received official confirmation of reports in foreign media on the US possible plans to put Russian businessmen on its sanctions lists.

    "All the news reports you mentioned have really appeared plentifully in media reports yesterday and today, including primarily in the Anglo-Saxon media. But we have not seen any official confirmation or official statements on them," Peskov told reporters.

    He noted that the situation is "rather difficult," that is why Russia "can't be guided by media reports." 

    READ MORE: No 'Tit-for-Tat': Moscow Evaluating Response to US 'Kremlin Report'

    The spokesperson went on saying that the times when there were oligarchs in Russia are long gone. The word "oligarch" was often used to characterize businesspeople who acquired great wealth in a very short period of time after the break-up of the Soviet Union and for a while held certain influence on the politics.

    "We consider the phrase 'Russian oligarchs' inappropriate. The time when there were oligarchs in Russia is long gone, there are no oligarchs in Russia," Peskov stressed.

    Earlier, the Washington Post, citing some unnamed US officials, reported President Donald Trump's administration intended to introduce sanctions against a number of Russians included in the so-called "Kremlin report" by Friday. According to the media, the sanctions will be economic in nature and will target "oligarchs" who have ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The exact number of Russians who will be affected by the punitive measures has not yet been determined, the Washington Post says.

    The so-called "Kremlin report," which comprised 114 Russian politicians, including the Russian presidential administration and members of the government, and 96 business people was published in the US in January. The inclusion in the list does not mean being targeted by sanctions by default, but implies that restrictive measures can be introduced in the future.

    Commenting on the release of the report, President Putin called it an "unfriendly step" by the US administration, which harms Moscow-Washington relations. The "Kremlin Report" was drafted in accordance with the law called Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanction Act, signed by Trump in August 2017.

    On Facebook's Move to Block Russian Media Accounts

    Kremlin regrets the blocking of Facebook accounts of a number of Russian media outlets and closely follows the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

    “We are certainly following the situation. And regret it,” Peskov told reporters.

    The spokesman also confirmed that the move could be considered as the manifestation of hostility toward Russian media, when asked a relevant question.

    READ MORE: Facebook, Instagram Delete Dozens of Russia-Linked Accounts

    This position echoes Wednesday's statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who demanded clarifications from US State Department in connection with blocked Russian media accounts. She also called on Facebook to specify its issues with these accounts and explain reasons behind its decision to block them, noting that the company did not report on any problems with the accounts during its contacts with Russian officials.

    On Tuesday, Russia’s Federal News Agency (FAN) said that Facebook had blocked its official page without any warning. Also on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company blocked more than 270 accounts and pages run by Russia's Internet Research Agency.

    Facebook has recently become involved in a major personal data breach scandal. In March, reports emerged that the personal information of about 50 million Facebook users had been harvested by the Cambridge Analytica consultancy firm without their permission. While reportedly working for multiple political campaigns, the firm gathered data to develop a mechanism that would predict and influence the behavior of voters. The company later announced that it would close access to user data for third party advertisement over the row.

    READ MORE: Macron Claims Facebook, Google Becoming 'Too Big', Expert Says It's Too Late

    Iran Nuclear Deal

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has touched upon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called Iran nuclear deal, which has been partially stalled because of the US refusal to certify that Iran was in compliance with the agreement.

    "[The topic] was briefly discussed during the talks with Rouhani [on Wednesday], in the view that the departure from the existing agreement is absolutely undesirable," Peskov said.

    READ MORE: EU Unwilling to Change, Expand Existing Iran Nuclear Deal — Diplomatic Source

    In July 2015, the European Union, Iran, and the P5+1 group of nations — the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom plus Germany — signed the JCPOA. The agreement stipulates a gradual lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran in exchange for Tehran maintaining the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

    On January 30, US President Donald Trump asked Congress to address the flaws in what he thought was the "terrible Iran nuclear deal." Earlier that month, the US president had announced that he would waive sanctions on Iran as required by the JCPOA, but said that it would be the last time. He also threatened to withdraw the United States from the deal if it was not amended. The other parties to the deal have all reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.

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