The U.S. is imposing sanctions on groups in Russia and Iran associated with the wrongful detainment of its citizens, CNN reported on April 27.
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich are currently being held in Russia on trumped-up espionage charges.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attempted to justify Russia detaining the two U.S. citizens while speaking to journalists at the United Nations on April 25, claiming they were detained "when committing a crime."
People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg in mid-April that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin "personally approved" Gershkovich's arrest on espionage charges.
In Iran, Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz are all being held in a prison where where there have been reports of torture, CNN wrote.
According to CNN, the sanctions imposed by the U.S. would target Russia's Federal Security Service and the Intelligence Organization of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Four individuals in Iran would also be targeted by the sanctions.
"We are 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 U.S. administration official said, as quoted by CNN.
However, as CNN pointed out, "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 U.S."