US and UK announce new sanctions targeting Russian ultra-wealthy

The new restrictions seek to limit Russia’s ability to evade sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women's Champions League final
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is among those targeted by new sanctions announced by the US and the UK on April 12 [File: Martin Meissner/AP Photo]

The United States and United Kingdom have announced new sanctions on Wednesday aimed at Russian oligarchs Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovich, targeting the financial networks of two of Moscow’s wealthiest businessmen who are close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

US officials said the new designations, which were coordinated with the British government, aimed to reinforce existing penalties and further disrupt Russia’s importation of critical technologies used in its war against Ukraine.

The Departments of State and Treasury announced sanctions on 120 entities and individuals, across more than 20 countries and jurisdictions, connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK named 14 individuals and entities.

“We are closing the net on the Russian elite and those who try to help them hide their money for war,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement. “There’s no place to hide. We will keep cutting them off from assets they thought were successfully hidden.”

Usmanov and Abramovich were early targets of Western sanctions aimed at key Russian sectors and individuals close to Putin.

Usmanov has been subject to US and European Union sanctions since shortly after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Abramovich, who amassed a fortune in Russia’s oil and aluminium industries following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, was forced to sell the Chelsea Football Club after he was cited last year.

Germany previously seized Usmanov’s superyacht, known as Dilbar.

The yacht, named after Usmanov’s mother, had an estimated worth of between $600m and $735m, according to the Department of the Treasury. Dilbar has two helipads and one of the world’s largest indoor pools ever installed on a yacht, and costs about $60m per year to operate.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted the new sanctions cited the All Russian Children’s and Youth Military Patriotic Public Movement Youth Army and the State Budgetary Educational Institution of Additional Education of the Republic of Crimea Crimea Patriot Center.

Blinken alleged that the two organisations “support Russia’s efforts to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through the militarization and indoctrination of schoolchildren”.

The Treasury also imposed sanctions on the International Investment Bank, a Russia-controlled financial institution in Budapest, Hungary — a rare step aimed at a NATO ally and further evidence of the increasingly fraught relationship between the US and Hungary.

Three current or former executives of the bank — Russian citizens Nikolay Nikolayevich Kosov and Georgy Nugzarovich Potapov, as well as Hungary national Imre Laszloczki — were designated for sanctions.

A US Treasury statement said the bank “enables Russia to increase its intelligence presence in Europe, opens the door for the Kremlin’s malign influence activities in Central Europe and the Western Balkans, and could serve as a mechanism for corruption and illicit finance, including sanctions violations”.

At a news briefing in Budapest, the US ambassador, David Pressman, said Hungary’s government had ignored pleas from multiple US administrations to withdraw its stake in the bank.

“The presence of this opaque Kremlin platform in the heart of Hungary threatens the security and sovereignty of the Hungarian people, their European neighbours and their NATO allies,” Pressman said. “Unlike other NATO allies previously engaged with this Russian entity, Hungary has dismissed the concerns of the United States government regarding the risks its continued presence poses to the alliance.”

Pressman had earlier raised concerns about intensifying anti-American rhetoric among some leading Hungarian politicians and in the government-aligned media.

The ambassador has suggested that the hard-right administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orban — widely considered Putin’s strongest advocate in the EU — was borrowing from “Russian propaganda” when discussing the war in Ukraine and was dividing NATO’s unity in its support of Kyiv.

Source: The Associated Press