U.S. belatedly begins to comply with Russia sanctions law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Thursday said it had belatedly begun informing Congress and others about groups associated with the Russian intelligence and defense sectors as required under a 2017 law tightening sanctions on Russia.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which became law on Aug. 2, among other things imposes sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow because U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia carried out a hacking and propaganda campaign to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The law calls on the president to impose sanctions on anyone he identifies as having engaged “in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors” of the Russian government.

The law required the Trump administration to “specify the persons that are part of, or operate for or on behalf of, the defense and intelligence sectors” of the Russian government by Oct. 1, a deadline the administration missed.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has now authorized the State Department to identify such people or entities, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

She said notification to Congress, as well as to industry, allies and partners, had begun and that public guidance on the matter would posted on the agency’s website soon, although she suggested this would not happen on Thursday.

“We expect to post the full public guidance on shortly ... a lot of these conversations are still ongoing between Congress, industry, allies and also partners,” Nauert said at a briefing.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker this week said he wanted administration answers about why it failed to meet the deadline for implementing the sanctions on Russia.

However, he said he spoke to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan by phone on Thursday and afterward said in a statement that the department’s guidance “is a good first step in responsibly implementing a very complex piece of legislation.”

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool