The US is imposing new sanctions on groups in Russia and Iran accused of taking Americans hostage as it works to prevent more captive-taking and potentially secure the release of citizens currently being detained.
The move comes amid several high-profile cases of Americans being wrongfully detained. Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, and Paul Whelan, a former Marine, are being held in Russia on espionage charges they each vehemently deny.
The sanctions ordered up Thursday would punish organizations the US accuses of being responsible for holding hostage or wrongfully detaining Americans. In Iran, four individuals are also coming under new sanctions.
The groups are Russia’s Federal Security Service and the Intelligence Organization of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Officials said the steps should act as a warning to those thinking of taking Americans hostage. “We are also showing that one cannot engage in this sort of awful behavior using human beings as pawns, as bargaining chips, without paying consequences and these are some of the consequences,” a senior administration official said.
But questions remain about the real impact of these sanctions because many of the entities hit on Thursday were already sanctioned under different authorities by the US.