The US sanctions Putin’s close circle to turn his back on him

The United States has raised this Thursday a new step in its repertoire of sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine targeting the oligarchs around Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the aim of turning their backs on the head of the Kremlin.

“We continue to impose very harsh sanctions on Putin and those around him,” US President Joe Biden told reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting.

Specifically, Washington directs its measures against the assets and transactions under US jurisdiction of eight oligarchs and their families, including Putin’s supposed “frontman”, Alisher Usmanov, and the spokesman for the Russian Executive, Dmitri Peskov.

As well bars entry to the United States of 19 members of the elite and their relatives, in addition to blocking the assets of seven Russian organizations and 26 individuals, whom the White House accuses of promoting “disinformation” about the war in Ukraine.

These sanctions are in addition to those that the US has imposed on Russia, in coordination with the European Union (EU) and other allies, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, such as the exclusion of several banks from the international financial system, the airspace closure for Russian planes or the sanctions against Putin himself.

Blow to Putin’s entourage

The list of those sanctioned this Thursday by the United States looks like the one the EU announced last Mondaywith the main difference that Washington also punishes their relatives to prevent Russian elites from transferring their wealth.

The most prominent name is that of Usmanova tycoon in the metal sector with a fortune estimated at more than 14,000 million dollars, whom Brussels considers Putin’s “front man” and to whom Germany seized a 600 million dollar superyacht.

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Precisely on Wednesday, the Department of Justice reported the creation of a working group that, among other functions, can seize yachts and private planes of Russian oligarchs.

“One of the main criteria (to impose sanctions) is his proximity to Putin. We want the people around him to feel that pressure,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki detailed Thursday.

Apart from Usmanov and Putin’s spokesman, Nikolai Tokarev, director of Transneft, an oil carrier, has also been sanctioned; Sergei Chemezov, director of Rostec, an arms exporter; and Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman known for hosting banquets in the Kremlin.

Former Russian Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and two previously sanctioned friends of Putin, Boris and Arkadi Rotenberg, are also on the list, unlike Mikhail Fridman, the recently resigned owner of the Dia supermarket chain, who instead does appear on the list. EU sanctions.

Russian oil in the spotlight

Meanwhile, the debate is still open in the United States about whether the next step should be the veto on imports of Russian oilsomething that has supported this Thursday the president of the House of RepresentativesDemocrat Nancy Pelosi.

Although Biden said on Wednesday that it is an option that is “on the table”, the White House has in recent hours downgraded the possibility of taking such a drastic measure due to the possibility that increase gasoline prices at a time of high inflation.

In his daily press conference, Psaki stressed that the objective of the sanctions should be to “maximize the impact” on Putin and “minimize it” on the Americans and their allies.

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Just 7% of US imports of crude and refined petroleum products came from Russia in 2020, but prices have already risen as some refiners have refused to buy crude from Russia over sanctions fears.

Unity beyond NATO

The US president held this Thursday a new call with international leaders on Ukraine, this time with their Indo-Pacific allies: the Prime Ministers of Australia, Scott Morrison; from India, Narendra Modi; and from Japan, Fumio Kishida.

The fact that Biden is tackling the invasion of Ukraine with his allies from the Quad, as the defense alliance of the four countries is known, is a sign of America’s willingness to demonstrate unity against Moscow beyond NATO’s fringes. .

Although the India has adopted a controversial stance of neutrality and abstained from condemning the invasion at the UN, Biden started New Delhi’s commitment to explore avenues of humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

In a new contact with foreign leaders, the US president will receive his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, at the White House this Friday, at a time of special tension between Helsinki and Moscow.

As a result of the invasion, the Nordic country, bordering Russia, has sent weapons to Ukraine, breaking its traditional position of neutrality, while the support of the Finns to join NATO has increased, to which Putin has threatened to retaliation.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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