US targets Syrian ministers, Russian bank in sanctions expansion

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US Treasury Department (file photo)

The United States has added several senior Syrian officials and the leadership of a Russian bank to its sanctions blacklist for providing support to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Treasury Department announced on Friday that it had targeted six Syrian officials including the ministers of oil and finance along with the governor of the Syrian central bank as well as nine members of the board of a Russian bank.

Moscow-based Tempbank and its chairman were already hit with sanctions in 2014 for their dealings with the Syrian government.

Those targeted on Friday will have their US assets frozen and Americans will be barred from transacting with them.

The Treasury also added a Syrian airline to its sanctions list. Cham Wings Airlines, which was recognized in 2014 as a national airline operator, was accused by the Treasury of moving weapons and equipment for Syrian Military Intelligence.

The airline had been placed on a US Commerce Department export-control list in 2011.

The new sanctions came as the Syrian forces, backed by the Russian airpower, have liberated the strategic city of Aleppo in a crushing blow to the militants and their foreign supporters.

"The daily attacks on civilian centers by the government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad are reprehensible, and both the government and its enablers must be isolated and held accountable for their barbarism," said Adam Szubin, acting under secretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

A Syrian man walks through the former militant-held Salaheddin district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on December 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Damascus said the US and several of its regional allies including Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia were supporting the militants before their defeat in Aleppo.

Russia has been carrying out an aerial campaign against militants in Syria, including Aleppo until recently, on a request from the Syrian government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Syrian counterpart to congratulate him on the liberation of Aleppo from foreign-backed militants.

"This success was possible thanks to mutual efforts of all who came together in the fight with international terrorism in Syria," the Kremlin said in a statement on Friday.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed since the onset of the militancy in 2011. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.

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