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U.S. sanctions Putin and top officials in response to Ukraine invasion

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for a meeting with representatives of the business community at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022. Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

The United States joined European countries in imposing sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, in an effort to put pressure on Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine.

The news: The US imposed sanctions on a head of state just one day after Russian armies invaded Ukraine, attacking by land, sea, and air in the largest invasion by one country against another in Europe since World War Two.

  • “President Putin and Minister Lavrov are directly responsible for Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful further invasion of Ukraine, a democratic sovereign state,” the Treasury Department said in a statement late on Friday announcing the sanctions.
  • It described sanctions against a head of state as “very uncommon,” and added Putin to a list that also includes the leaders of North Korea, Syria, and Belarus. It is possible that additional steps will be taken.
  • President Joe Biden decided to target Putin, Lavrov, and other officials after speaking by phone with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier on Friday, according to White House spokesman Jen Psaki.
  • The moves, according to Treasury, followed a slew of additional sanctions issued this week that targeted Russian banks and wealthy oligarchs, cut Russia off from crucial technologies, and limited its ability to generate funds.
The United States will impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday

What they’re saying: While the penalties on Putin are mostly symbolic, targeting the Russian leader was a reasonable step for the US and its partners, according to Edward Fishman, an Atlantic Council fellow who worked on Russia sanctions at the State Department during the Obama administration.

  • “It certainly sends a very strong message of solidarity with Ukrainians who are under fire right now,” Fishman said.
  • According to the Treasury Department, two more senior Russian officials, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, have been sanctioned for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • The Treasury Department will also impose sanctions on the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which Psaki defined as a “state-owned financial entity that functions as a sovereign wealth fund, which is supposed to attract capital into the Russian economy in high-growth sectors” on Twitter.
  • The action against the Russian Direct Investment Fund will be taken in the coming days, according to a Treasury official.
  • “We are united with our international allies and partners to ensure Russia pays a severe economic and diplomatic price for its further invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in statement. “If necessary, we are prepared to impose further costs on Russia for its appalling behavior on the world stage.”
  • Treasury said it will continue to target Russian elites for “their role in bankrolling Russia’s further aggression against Ukraine, empowering Putin, or participating in Russia’s kleptocracy,” adding that it has previously named 11 members of the Russian Security Council.

In addition: On Friday, Putin encouraged Ukraine’s military to depose its political leaders and negotiate peace, while authorities in Kyiv urged civilians to assist in defending the capital against a Russian invasion, which its mayor claimed had already begun.

  • The penalties against Putin are Washington’s latest retaliation for Russia’s assault against Ukraine.
  • The US placed penalties on Russian banks, elites, and the business in charge of constructing the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany this week.
  • In response to rumours that the US government has instructed officials to cut off most connections with Russia, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the invasion of Ukraine had “fundamentally changed” Moscow’s relations with the US and other countries.
  • Price told reporters that US officials will continue to work with their Russian colleagues on key national security issues, such as talks to re-establish the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
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