August 19, 2022

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WASHINGTON – The United States and Europe moved on Friday to personally punish President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine, imposing sanctions aimed at freezing his wealth while continuing to try to cripple his military and economic capabilities through other new restrictions.

White House officials said President Biden intends to impose sanctions and freeze the assets of Mr. Putin, along with Sergei V. Lavrov, his secretary of state. Other Russian national security officials will also be subject to sanctions, and the United States plans to impose travel bans to restrict the movement of Russia’s top leaders.

The United States aligns itself with its European allies, whose governments took similar steps earlier today.

Treasury Secretary Janet L.

European leaders met in the early hours of Friday to reach agreement on a new set of sanctions that broadly target the Russian economy and Mr. Putin himself, as his forces advance in their invasion of Ukraine.

One of the decisions was to freeze the assets of Mr. Putin and Mr. Lavrov, but not impose a travel ban on them, according to three EU diplomats and officials familiar with the EU sanctions draft.

The new US and European sanctions constitute a provocative move given the scarcity of governments, including the United States, targeting foreign leaders. However, it may prove largely symbolic given that the whereabouts of Mr Putin’s financial holdings have been hidden in mystery and his money is not believed to be held in the United States.

Imposing direct sanctions on Mr Putin “sends a clear message about the strength of opposition to President Putin’s actions and direction in his leadership of the Russian military,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Ms. Psaki said the decision was made in the past 24 hours after consulting with European leaders. She did not comment on the impact she thinks the sanctions will have on Mr. Putin. But she stressed it was a show of transatlantic unity in opposing his actions.

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While the United States has imposed sanctions on some Russian rulers and froze their assets, targeting Mr. Putin directly was a significant escalation. Puts him in a similar company with Syrian Presidents Bashar al-Assad And the Alexander G. Lukashenko from BelarusBoth were subject to personal sanctions by the United States government.

Adam M said Smith, a former Treasury official who is now a partner at Gibson’s law firm, Dunn & Crocher, said the imposition of sanctions on Mr Putin sent an important message given that the United States had never taken similar action against such action. Strong leader. However, he said the sanctions were unlikely to affect Putin’s fortune or change his accounts in Ukraine.

“I don’t think Putin is really going to lose much sleep when he is punished,” Mr. Smith said.

Personal sanctions add to the growing list of restrictions that the Biden administration, in coordination with Europe, has imposed over the past weeks. The United States has imposed sanctions on major Russian financial institutions and the country’s sovereign debt, and on Thursday took steps to deny Russia access to American technology critical to its military, aviation industry and public economy.

But the attempt to punish Mr. Putin has exposed the extent to which many European countries depend on Russia for energy, grain and other products. The sanctions package, which European leaders have described as unprecedented in its scale and reach, has been difficult to reach consensus on, even with Russian forces. Closer to Kievthe capital of Ukraine.

The economies of Europe are closely linked to the Russian economy, and the more inclined the European Union is to Russian sanctions, the more pain its members will also feel. Even the most severe sanctions could derail the bloc’s temporary recovery from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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That’s why negotiators left the particularly difficult elements off the table, such as imposing sanctions on oil and gas companies or banning Russia from SWIFT, the platform used to conduct global financial transactions on commodities including Wheat. EU officials said one of the main reasons they are reluctant to cut off Russia’s access to the platform is that Europe is using it to pay for the gas it buys from Russia.

Experts said the sanctions approved were harsh and the speed with which the EU was moving was impressive. But some criticized the leaders for not going further.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky He was scathing in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday.

“This morning, we are defending our state alone,” he said. “Like yesterday, the most powerful powers of the world are watching from afar. Did yesterday’s sanctions convince Russia? We hear in our skies and see on our land that this was not enough.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who carried out the painstaking technical work behind the sanctions, said on Friday that the sanctions would damage the Russian economy’s ability to function by depriving it of critical technology and access to financing.

Its most ambitious elements were also the most technical: the European Union would ban the export of aircraft and spare parts for the maintenance of Russian fleets. Ms von der Leyen said three-quarters of the planes in Russia’s aviation fleet were made in the European Union, the United States or Canada, and that the new restrictions effectively meant many planes were grounded soon.

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The bloc would also ban the export of specialized oil refining technology as well as semiconductors, and penalize more banks – although it would stop targeting VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, which has already been hit by US and British sanctions. According to a draft describing the penalties seen by The New York Times.

The EU will target Russian elites by cutting off diplomatic and passport holders’ access to EU visas, and by limiting the ability of Russian citizens to deposit more than 100,000 euros (about $113,000) in European bank accounts.

The way Europe’s sanctions against Russia are shaped highlights that some EU countries, most notably Germany and Italy, prefer a phased approach to punish Mr. Putin, in part to protect Europe’s fragile economic recovery after the pandemic.

On the other side are the neighboring countries of Russia and Ukraine, such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. They prefer not to break the sanctions into smaller packages, but instead hit Mr. Putin with crushing economic measures that really do the sting.

Ms. Psaki said the Biden administration continues to consider additional options, such as sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector. However, the White House understands that raising oil prices could be beneficial to Putin as gasoline prices increase in the United States.

“Our sanctions are designed to harm the Russian economy, not ours,” Ms. Psaki said.

Alan Rabeport And the Katie Rogers Reported from Washington, Matina Stevis Gridnev from Brussels.