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U.S. to impose sanctions on Vladimir Putin and top aide, White House says

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs an annual extended meeting of the Board of the Russian Interior Ministry, in Moscow, Russia, on February 17, 2022.
Alexey Nikolsky | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The United States will impose a slate of sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, following similar sanctions announced Friday by the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Putin and Lavrov join a growing list of elite Russian government officials who have been sanctioned by the United States in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Twice this week, the United States has announced new sanctions against Russia’s largest banks and its sovereign debt, cutting them off from the U.S. banking system.

Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, sending tens of thousands of Russian troops into dozens of Ukrainian cities with the apparent aim of capturing Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

In the weeks leading up to the invasion, the Biden administration said the threat of sever sanctions were intended to serve as a deterrent to Putin.

But that strategy failed this week, and since then the White House has shifted its message to focus on the punitive impact of sanctions.

It’s unclear how much individual sanctions against Putin will accomplish, however.

Putin publicly claims his salary of roughly $140,000 as his only source of income, and lists his assets as two apartments and a few vehicles.

In reality, Putin lives in a palatial home larger than Buckingham Palace, and has been photographed repeatedly wearing watches that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Experts and former Kremlin insiders believe Putin is worth billions of dollars, and that he uses the global shadow banking system to hide his money.

Putin also appears to control assets in Europe, according to the Pandora Papers investigation, published in Oct. 2021. The leaked documents revealed a $4.1 million apartment in Monaco that was owned by a Russian woman who did not have any apparent source of income, but who had been romantically linked to Putin for years.

That same woman, Svetlana Krivonogikh, was also listed as the registered owner of a shell company in 2010 that was in turn one of the major shareholders in a Russian state-linked bank that was sanctioned by the United States in 2014.

The sanctions against Putin will be welcome news to Ukrainian diplomats in in the United States.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said Friday that sanctions against Putin “would be the right thing.”

Markarova, who is the former Minister of Finance, welcomed the European Union’s decision to sanction Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Markarova also said that Kyiv was grateful for the sanctions announced Thursday by the Biden administration.

“I was very happy to see the sanctions against major Russian banks. I was very happy to see their export controls, I was very happy to see the personal sanctions,” she told reporters Friday at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington.

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