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24 Mar, 2022 19:06

US hits Russia with new sanctions

New US sanctions ‘strike at the heart’ of Moscow’s ability to finance its Ukraine offensive, Washington claims
US hits Russia with new sanctions

The US has further expanded – what was already considered to be – an unprecedented list of sanctions against Russia amid Moscow’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine. On Thursday, Washington targeted parliamentarians, dozens of defense enterprises, and a number of individuals, including the CEO of Russia’s biggest bank.

In the latest bid “to impose severe costs on the Russian Federation for its illegal, unwarranted, and baseless war against Ukraine,” the Treasury has published a list of targeted entities and individuals whom it considers to be the “key enablers of the invasion.”

“This includes dozens of Russian defense companies, 328 members of the Russian State Duma, and the head of Russia’s largest financial institution. This action aligns with similar actions taken by the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and reflects continued unity to hold [Russian President Vladimir] Putin accountable for his war of choice,” the department said in a statement.

The parliamentarians have been targeted by the US sanctions for their support of “the Kremlin’s efforts to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” including recognizing the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

In addition to designating 328 members of the State Duma today, OFAC is also designating the State Duma itself as an entity,” the Treasury said.

The companies on the list, as the department claims, produce weapons “that have been used in Russia’s assault against Ukraine’s people, infrastructure and territory.” The 48 sanctioned enterprises include Tactical Missiles Corporation, High Precision Systems, Techmash, Russian Helicopters, and other related entities.

Personal sanctions have covered, among others, Herman Gref, who was targeted as the head of Sberbank and as “a close Putin associate,” billionaire Gennady Timchenko and his relatives, and 17 board members of Sovcombank.

Sovcombank has already responded to the news, saying the sanctions target individuals and therefore would not affect the bank operations.

Any transactions with gold from the reserves of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have also become subject to sanctions. This was done “to blunt the Central Bank’s ability to deploy international reserves, including gold, to prop up the Russian economy and fund Putin’s brutal war.

The United States, with our partners and allies, is striking at the heart of Russia’s ability to finance and carry out its warfare and atrocities against Ukraine,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said.

On Thursday, the UK announced its own sanctions against Russia and the EU's fifth package of restrictions was expected to follow soon. 

In the month that has passed since the launch of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the US, along with its allies, have introduced several massive sanction packages against Moscow. The restrictions already personally affect the president, several top ministers, officials and businessmen, as well as a number of major banks, including Sberbank and VTB. Washington also imposed an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports and restricted the export of microelectronics and luxury goods to Russia. The US, EU, and their partners have cut the country off from their financial systems, limited dollar and euro transactions, and frozen roughly $300 billion in Russian forex reserves abroad, among other measures.

Moscow considers the sanctions unjustified, inappropriate, and illegal and has pledged to take robust measures to defend the Russian economy.

Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and end the conflict with the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia ended up recognizing the two as independent states, at which point they asked for military aid. 

Russia demands that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two Donbass republics by force.