Financial institutions

Biden announces sanctions against Russian financial institutions, Putin’s daughters and others


President Joe Biden says ‘major war crimes’ are being uncovered in Ukraine as Russian forces retreat from areas around kyiv, citing scenes of brutal, cold-blooded executions as justification for tightening US sanctions against Moscow.

‘Responsible nations must come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,’ Biden told a union crowd in Washington as the White House announced new sanctions against Russia’s biggest financial institutions and the number of individuals linked to the Kremlin , including the two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. .

“We will continue to increase the economic cost and increase Putin’s pain and further increase Russia’s economic isolation,” Biden said, denouncing Russia’s intentional targeting of civilians and heralding a united Western response , although he acknowledged that the battle was still ongoing. .

Horrifying images of the Ukrainian town of Bucha left “a sense of brutality and inhumanity left unabashedly to the world,” Biden said in his remarks as he announced new steps the United States was taking to punish those responsible.

The sanctions are designed to tighten the noose on the Russian economy, which has been brought to its knees by Western punishment. Yet the ever harsher consequences of invading Ukraine have not seemed to force Putin to tone down a brutal campaign that has increasingly targeted civilians.

Biden has previously said he believes Putin to be a war criminal and this week called for a trial to hold Moscow accountable. Yet the process of prosecuting war crimes is complex and lengthy, and questions remain about how and when such accountability might be rendered.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that the Justice Department is helping gather evidence for potential war crimes prosecutions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said he had spoken with French and European officials about the evidence collection currently underway.

And Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States was “working to document” war crimes with the goal of providing the information to relevant agencies.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also said this week that the United States would seek information from intelligence agencies, Ukrainian eyewitnesses, international organizations and global media interviews to mount a file.

Biden praised Ukraine on Wednesday for backing a fight against Russia that prevented it from taking the country’s capital.

“Thanks to the bravery, courage and fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people, Russia has already failed in its original war aims. Russia wanted to take Ukraine’s capital, kyiv, and overthrow its democracy and elected government. Today kyiv is still standing and this government is presiding,” Biden said.

But he warned that the violence may not end soon.

“The fight is far from over,” he said. “This war could go on for a long time.

The “full lockdown” sanctions imposed on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank, are aimed at further crippling the Russian economy. They will ban transactions with all US financial institutions and freeze assets held by banks in the US.

“They won’t be able to touch any of their money. They won’t be able to do any business here,” Biden said.

Sberbank owns almost a third of the Russian banking sector’s total assets, and the White House says that with Wednesday’s sanctions, more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector is now in lockdown.

“The sad reality is that Putin’s war will make it harder for Russians to travel abroad. This means that their debit cards may not work. They may only have the ability to buy counterfeit phones and clothes, store shelves may be empty,” a senior administration official told reporters.

“The reality is that the country is sinking into economic, financial and technological isolation and at this rate it will revert to 1980s Soviet-style standards,” the official continued.

By targeting Putin’s two adult daughters, the United States hopes to freeze any assets the Russian president may be hiding with them, according to the senior administration official. Without specifying which Putin assets might be hiding with Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the official said the practice was common among Russia’s elite.

Members of the Russian Security Council, including former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, are also targeted by individual sanctions. The United States has already sanctioned more than 140 oligarchs and their family members and more than 400 Russian government officials, the senior official said.

“Listen, these oligarchs and their family members are not allowed to keep their wealth in Europe and the United States and keep these yachts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, their luxury vacation homes while children in Ukraine are being killed, displaced from their homes every day,” Biden said in his speech.

The new sanctions will cut these people off from the US banking system and freeze all assets held in the United States.

The White House also announced a ban on new investments in Russia which will be executed in alignment with the G7 and the EU. The ban will be implemented by an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.

And the United States will also apply full lockdown sanctions on key critical Russian state enterprises, to be announced by the Treasury Department on Thursday. The official also noted Tuesday’s announcement that the Treasury Department has blocked Russia from repaying its debt with dollars stored in US banks.

While the United States and its allies have imposed the most sweeping sanctions regime in history against a country the size of Russia, officials concede it has done little to alter the calculus. of Putin. The threat of sanctions has not deterred the invasion itself, and the accumulation of economic sanctions has not brought Russia any closer to a withdrawal or a since-negotiated settlement.

Pressed on the effectiveness of sanctions in ending Putin’s war in Ukraine, the senior official sought to emphasize the effect they are having on life in Russia and said Putin should eventually reckon with his people.

“Even an autocrat like Putin has a social contract with the Russian people. He took away their freedom in exchange for a promise of stability, and therefore he is not giving them stability,” the official said.

“The question really isn’t so much: what can we do and when will it have an effect? ​​I think it’s: what’s the endgame here for Putin? Why is he playing? said the official. “It very clearly becomes a failure for him and at some point he will have to recognize this reality.”

This story has been updated with additional reports.