RUSSIA + UKRAINE
Biden administration imposes new sanctions on Putin’s family, banks
(CNN) — The US announced new sanctions Wednesday on Russian financial institutions and individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, as it aims to increase economic pressure on Russia and Putin himself following horrific images from the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
The US also announced sanctions on the wife and daughter of Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
“Today we’re dramatically escalating the financial shock by imposing full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank,” a senior administration official briefing reporters said.
CNN reported on Tuesday that the sanctions would come in coordination with Group of 7 nations and the European Union.
The US is targeting Putin’s two adult daughters because they believe the Russian President may be hiding some of his assets with them, according to the senior administration official.
Without detailing which of Putin’s assets could be hiding with Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the official said the practice was common among the Russian elite.
“We have reason to believe that Putin and many of his cronies and the oligarchs hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members that have placed their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, but also many other parts of the world,” the official said.
“That’s why the coordination, the coordinated efforts to freeze their assets and seize their physical luxury goods — their cars, their yachts, their homes, etc. — that’s why it’s so important that we act together,” the official added.
The latest sanctions also go after the Russian financial sector, a top target for Western governments.
Sberbank holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets, the official noted, adding that the US has now fully blocked “more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector.”
The senior official announced a ban on new investment in Russia that will be executed in alignment with the G7 and EU. The ban will be implemented with an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.
Members of Russia’s Security Council, including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, are also being targeted by individual sanctions. The US has already sanctioned more than 140 oligarchs and their family members and over 400 Russian government officials, the senior official said.
The US will also apply full blocking sanctions on critical major Russian state-owned enterprises, which will be announced by the Department of Treasury on Thursday. The official also noted Tuesday’s announcement that the Department of Treasury has blocked Russia from making debt payments with dollars stockpiled at US banks.
The senior official noted the crippling effect of US measures on the Russian economy since its invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia’s GDP is projected to shrink by double digits this year. … It’s now in the process of being isolated as a pariah state. The economic shock this year alone is projected by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to wipe out the past 15 years of economic gains,” the official said.
While the US and its allies have imposed the most sweeping sanctions regime targeting a country of the size of Russia in history, officials acknowledge it has done little to shift Putin’s calculation. The threat of the sanctions didn’t deter the invasion itself, and the piling on of economic penalties hasn’t brought Russia any closer to a withdrawal or negotiated settlement since.
Pressed about the efficacy of sanctions in ending Putin’s war in Ukraine, the senior official sought to underscore the effect they are having on life in Russia and said Putin would eventually have to reckon with his people.
“Even an autocrat like Putin has a social contract with the Russian people. He took away their freedom in exchange for promising stability, and so he’s not giving them stability,” the official said.
“The question really is not so much: What can we do and when will that have an effect? I think it’s: What’s the endgame here for Putin? What’s he playing for?” the official said. “This is very clearly becoming a failure for him and at some point he will have to recognize that reality.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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