When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.
But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.
The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.
With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point. House Democrats won widespread Republican support last week for their efforts to block the sanctions relief deal. Democratic hopes of blocking the administration’s decision have been stifled by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Treasury Department announced the sanctions last April against Mr. Deripaska, six other Russian oligarchs and their companies, including Mr. Deripaska’s aluminum giant, Rusal, as well as the holding company that owns it, EN+, and another company it controls, EuroSibEnergo. Like other oligarchs, Mr. Deripaska is closely allied with the Kremlin.
The sanctions were in retaliation for “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Russia, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said at the time.
The personal sanctions on Mr. Deripaska went into effect immediately, but those on his companies were delayed several times, and Mr. Mnuchin struck a conciliatory tone toward the companies. He clarified that the goal of the sanctions was “to change the behavior” of Mr. Deripaska, and “not to put Rusal out of business,” given the company’s pivotal role as a global supplier of aluminum.
Mr. Mnuchin indicated that the Treasury Department might be willing to lift the sanctions from Mr. Deripaska’s companies if he reduced his stake to less than 50 percent.