US targets Putin’s daughters, leading Russian banks in new round of sanctions

Dramatic images from Bucha have led to additional measures, including a ban on new investments in Russia and action against Sberbank and Alfa Bank

Police officers in Bucha on Wednesday worked to identify the bodies of civilians killed in this Ukrainian city.
Police officers in Bucha on Wednesday worked to identify the bodies of civilians killed in this Ukrainian city.Rodrigo Abd (AP)

There was still a lot of ammunition left in the sanctions arsenal that the United States, the G-7 group of countries and the European Union is deploying against Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. The trigger has been the horrific images coming in from Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv from which Russian troops withdrew this past weekend, leaving behind what US President Joe Biden has described as “war crimes.”

The massacre prompted a White House announcement on Wednesday of new punishments, including a ban on new investments, increased financial difficulties for the operations of Russia’s biggest financial institutions, and going after the wealth of government officials and some of their families. Among the latter, of note are the two “adult” daughters of Vladimir Putin, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova. In practice, “this action cuts them off from the U.S. financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States.”

The list of figures being sanctioned by the United States also extends to the wife and daughter of the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, as well as members of the Russian Security Council, including former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, and the current prime minister Mikhail Mishustin, who have been accused by Washington of having “enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people.”

For its part, the United Kingdom also announced that it is increasing the list of oligarchs that it has set its sights on, with eight new names. Among them are Moshe Kantor and Andrey Guryev, both fertilizer magnates, Sergey Ivanov, the CEO of the biggest diamond producer in the world, and Leonid Mikhelson, the founder of the natural gas company Novatek.

The statement from the White House also detailed “full blocking sanctions” for Sberbank, which is the biggest financial institution in Russia and accounts for a third of the sector in the country, as well as its biggest private lender, Alfa Bank, which implies freezing the assets of both institutions. US citizens have also been banned from doing business with them. The United Kingdom has also blocked dealings with Sberbank, as well as with the Credit Bank of Moscow. The British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, promised on Wednesday that imports of Russian coal and oil would be halted before the end of the year.

“President Biden will sign a new Executive Order that includes a prohibition on new investment in Russia by US persons wherever located, which will further isolate Russia from the global economy,” the White House statement reads. “This action builds on the decision made by more than 600 multinational businesses to exit from Russia.” This action, Washington believes, will ensure a lasting weakening of the global competitiveness of the Russian Federation.

“Russia is a global financial pariah – and it will now need to choose between draining its available funds to make debt payments or default,” the White House statement continues, also setting out its support for sectors that are essential to humanitarian activities: “Ensuring the availability of basic foodstuffs and agricultural commodities, safeguarding access to medicine and medical devices, and enabling telecommunications services to support the flow of information and access to the internet which provides outside perspectives to the Russian people.”

Experts cited by the White House calculate that these measures, in addition to the previous waves of sanctions imposed since the start of the offensive on February 24, will see the GDP of Russia contract up to 15% this year, wiping out the last 15 years of economic gains, according to the statement. “Russia will very likely lose its status as a major economy, and it will continue a long descent into economic, financial, and technological isolation,” the document reads.

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