China faces sanctions from the US for buying Russian weapons

Olivia Tobin
The sanctions relate to China's purchase of 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets: AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese military agency and its director are facing US sanctions over the purchase of Russian weapons, the State Department announced.

China's Equipment Development Department and director Li Shangfu made a "significant transaction" involving the purchase of Russian combat aircraft and surface-to-air missiles, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement.

The purchase violated a 2017 law intended to punish the government of President Vladimir Putin for allegedly interfering in US elections and other activities.

Anyone engaging with Russian defence contractors or people associated with them can face economic sanctions that include prohibitions from entering the US or from conducting transactions with the US financial system under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

As part of Thursday's announcement, the US also added 33 names to a list of people who could trigger sanctions for their ties to the Russian military.

Some of those newly added were indicted in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian election interference, according to administration officials.

The sanctions were enacted "to further impose costs on the Russian government in response to its malign activities," Ms Nauert said in the statement.

The US will continue to "urge all countries to curtail relationships with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors, both of which are linked to malign activities worldwide," she added.

The legislation triggering the sanctions was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 2017 and signed into law by President Donald Trump to punish Russia for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for actions intended to subvert democracy in Europe.

The sanctions imposed on Thursday include a visa ban for Li and restrict both Li and the Chinese agency, a component of the country's Central Military Commission, from engaging in transactions with the US financial system as well as blocking their access to property and interests within US jurisdiction.

Additional reporting by Associated Press