Fresh US sanctions target Russian elites, Putin’s spokesperson

Penalties, including asset seizures, come amid the push to ramp up pressure on Moscow over Ukraine’s invasion.

Biden at cabinet meeting
United States President Joe Biden pledges to target 'oligarchs' as Russian missiles 'are being fired indiscriminately' on Ukraine [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

The White House has announced additional sanctions on several wealthy Russian elites and individuals in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including the Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.

The new measures on Thursday come as Washington and its allies push to ramp up pressure on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions, which include visa restrictions and seizure of assets, target 19 “oligarchs” and 47 of their family members, the United States administration said, adding that the curbs have been taken in coordination with allies.

“One of the elites is Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin,” the White House said in a statement.

“His property will be blocked from use in the United States and by US persons – including his superyacht, one of the world’s largest.”

Both Forbes and Bloomberg have ranked Usmanov amongst the 100 richest people in the world.

The White House said penalties will also target Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, whom the White House described as a “top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda”.

Later on Thursday, US President Joe Biden said the sanctions follow his pledge to go after Russian elites.

“In the State of the Union address, I announced that the Department of Justice is going after the crimes of Russian oligarchs … who line their pockets with Russian peoples’ money while [the Ukrainian people] are hiding in the subway from Russian missiles that are being fired indiscriminately,” Biden said ahead of a cabinet meeting.

The US Justice Department established a task force, dubbed “KleptoCapture”, earlier this week with the aim of penalising Russia’s “oligarchs”.

“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”

Earlier this week, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich announced his intention to sell Chelsea Football Club, nearly two decades after buying the London side, amid increased pressure on businessmen associated with Moscow.

France also seized the yacht of Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s oil company Rosneft, as the ship tried to leave the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat.

As the war in Ukraine entered its eighth day on Thursday, Russian forces captured the strategic southern port city of Kherson and encircled Mariupol to the east as they pushed to capture urban centres across the country, including the capital, Kyiv.

The fighting has spurred one million Ukrainians to flee the country in search of safety so far, according to the United Nations.

Earlier this year, Russia repeatedly denied US and European allegations that it was planning to invade Ukraine, insisting that it has legitimate security concerns over Kyiv’s deepening alliance with the West – and demanding guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.

But last week, Putin launched an all-out assault on Ukraine with the stated aim of demilitarising the country without occupying it.

On Thursday, Russian and Ukrainian officials resumed talks in Belarus to resolve the crisis. The negotiations did not lead to a ceasefire, but Ukrainian officials said the sides reached an agreement to establish humanitarian corridors.

Source: Al Jazeera