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U.S. Lawmakers Urge Officials To Eye Sanctions Against Russian Billionaire Yevtushenkov

Vladimir Yevtushenkov attends a court hearing in Moscow in November 2014.

Two U.S. lawmakers have urged U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to consider hitting Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov with sanctions and examine whether he has engaged in corruption.

Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mark Walker (Republican-North Carolina) made the request in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was made public on June 21.

The letter, dated May 16, calls on Mnuchin and Pompeo to "take immediate action to determine" whether Yevtushenkov should face punitive measures.

"We urge the Department of the Treasury and the Department of promptly investigate Vladimir Yevtushenkov, AFK Sistema holding company, and Mobile TeleSystems, and if merited, to sanction them as authorized" under U.S. laws and regulations, the letter said.

The letter cites Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement in October 2016 that Yevtushenkov's holding company, AFK Sistema, would build medical facilities in Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula seized by Russia in 2014.

AFK Sistema controls Russia's largest mobile-phone operator, MTS, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The lawmakers' letter also cites a U.S. corruption probe involving MTS activities in Uzbekistan.

Yevtushenkov is among the dozens of Russian tycoons that the Treasury Department says gained wealth or power through association with Putin -- some of whom were hit with sanctions in April.

But he has also publicly clashed with Russian authorities. In 2014, Yevtushenkov was arrested and charged with money laundering in connection with the acquisition of the regional oil firm Bashneft.

Sistema's stake in Bashneft was seized by authorities and later bought by state oil giant Rosneft, which is led by close Putin ally Igor Sechin.

The charges, which Yevtushenkov called an "act of intimidation," were dropped.

With reporting by Reuters