US brings sanctions down on Putin's judo partner

MOSCOW - Fortune has smiled on judo coach Arkady Rotenberg, bringing his businesses Google-like growth and a key role in staging the Winter Olympics. It has now brought down on him the wrath of the United States government.

Rotenberg says his success has nothing to do with personal favours from his childhood sparring partner, Vladimir Putin, and has denounced this week's Ukraine-linked sanctions on his companies as an affront to the spirit of free enterprise.

Following personal US visa bans and asset freezes imposed on Rotenberg and his younger brother Boris last month, the new measures against pipeline construction firm Stroygazmontazh (SGM) and banks SMP and Investcapitalbank have, if nothing else, thrust the media-shy sportsman into the spotlight.

SGM, 51-percent owned by Arkady Rotenberg, 62, saw revenues grow by a factor of nearly 50 after its creation in 2008 from several units sold by Gazprom. In four years, working for the state-run energy giant and others, it had laid 11,600 km (7,200 miles) of pipeline - enough to reach all the way from his and Putin's native St. Petersburg to the Pacific. And back.

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