The United States has announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russia’s top public and private banks and Vladimir Putin’s two daughters, following mounting global accusations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
The sanctions targeted Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, two adult daughters of Putin with his ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva.
The wife and daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and members of the Russian Security Council, including former President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and current Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustin, have also been hit with new sanctions.
“These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Some of them are responsible for providing the necessary support to support Putin’s war against Ukraine,” the White House said.
“We believe many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that’s why we are targeting them,” a senior US official told reporters, referring to the two girls.
The White House also declared “total lockdown” sanctions against Russia’s largest public and private financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank, and said all new US investment in Russia was now banned.
New sanctions will be announced on Thursday against major Russian state-owned enterprises, he said, aimed at hampering their ability to trade and move money through the global financial system.
“The sickening brutality at Bucha made tragically clear the despicable nature of Putin’s regime,” the official said, referring to evidence of deliberate killing of civilians by Russian forces in a Kyiv suburb. “Today, in alignment with G7 allies and partners, we are stepping up the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Vorontsova, Putin’s eldest daughter, is said to be a specialist in rare diseases in children. Tikhonova, an academic who for years participated in rock ‘n’ roll acrobatic dance competitions, was appointed in 2020 to head an artificial intelligence institute at Moscow State University, according to reports from the ‘era.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gave harrowing testimony to the UN about atrocities he called war crimes in Bucha.
Joe Biden linked the new US sanctions directly to Bucha, tweeting that he had “made it clear that Russia will pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities” there.
The UK has separately said it will impose a full asset freeze on Russia’s biggest bank and end all oil and coal imports by the end of the year. Sanctions will also be imposed on eight other oligarchs, including Moshe Kantor, the main shareholder of fertilizer company Acron and Andrey Guryev, the founder of another key fertilizer company, which the UK has described as a close associate. associate of Vladimir Putin.
In Brussels, however, diplomats did not approve new EU sanctions proposed by the European Commission, including the import of all types of coal from Russia, as part of a wider package of measures. which would further restrict trade with Moscow.
Tensions have risen between EU member states over energy measures. Lithuania, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies in the bloc, said the proposals were “not really an adequate response” to the horrors uncovered in Ukrainian cities.
“A weak response is just an invitation for more atrocities,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. “He could and should be stronger.”
Lithuania announced on Sunday it had stopped Russian gas imports, the first EU member state to do so, but the bloc as a whole, which gets 40% of its gas imports from its eastern neighbor, is hesitant to take this step.
The EU has accelerated tentative talks on new sanctions against Russia, adding coal at the last minute, when evidence emerged of alleged war crimes against defenseless civilians in towns controlled by Russian forces.
In harrowing testimony before the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Zelenskiy described how people were shot, tortured, raped and run over by tanks, urging that Russia’s leaders be brought to justice for war crimes by the through an international tribunal modeled on the Nuremberg trials against the Nazis.
In addition to the ban on Russian coal and ships (except for humanitarian aid, food and energy), the European Commission has proposed a total ban on transactions for four Russian banks, including the second, VTB.
According to proposals announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, Russian and Belarusian road transport companies would be banned from entering the EU. The commission also wants to ban the export of high-tech products, including quantum computers and advanced semiconductors, to Russia. Certain Russian imports would be banned, including timber, cement, seafood and alcoholic products estimated at 5.5 billion euros for Russia each year.
Von der Leyen’s announcement – the first time EU sanctions have been revealed in public before they are formally adopted – angered diplomats, who are not expected to reach an agreement until Thursday.
Tensions surfaced when EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell reported that the bloc had given Putin 35 billion euros in fossil fuel payments since the start of the war, compared to 1 billion euros. euros in arms for Ukraine.
Poland and the Baltic states have called for a total ban on Russian fossil fuel exports, while Germany, which gets 55% of its gas from Russia, worries about unemployment and soaring oil prices.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who was congratulated by the Kremlin on Monday on his election victory, also opposes a ban on gas and oil. Austria is also seen as lukewarm on the plans. “It is clear that Vienna, Budapest and Berlin are less happy,” said a diplomat from one of the so-called sanctionist countries who favor a hard line.
Germany backs the coal ban, which would target trade worth €4 billion a year to Russia.
The Netherlands, home to the EU’s largest port, Rotterdam, would support a ban on Russian vessels. Proponents of tough sanctions are also calling for the removal of “some strange waivers” to existing sanctions, for example by closing loopholes in previous measures banning the sale of luxury goods from the EU to Russia.
In a blow to EU unity, Orbán announced that his country would have “no difficulty” paying for Russian gas in rubles and would do so if Moscow asked. Germany and Italy, other major European consumers of Russian gas, have refused Putin’s request to pay for gas shipments in rubles, although Berlin has found a workaround that would allow it to pay for the gas in euros. which would then be converted into rubles by the Russian bank Gazprombank.
In a separate speech to the Spanish parliament on Tuesday, Zelenksiy called for a ban on lucrative Russian oil exports. Drawing parallels between the bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and the attack on his country, Zelenskiy said “the fate of the whole European project, the values that unite us” were at stake in Ukraine.
Russia has denied responsibility for the deaths in Bucha, saying photos were staged or people were killed after their forces withdrew. Satellite images, however, show bodies lying in the streets of cities under Russian occupation.