In a new round of sanctions, the United States banned American investments in Russia, imposed sanctions on relatives of Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials and tightened restrictions in Sberbankthe largest financial institution in the country.
The new sanctions, announced Wednesday, come as the United States and its Western allies accuse Russia of war. crimes in Ukraine after the discovery of atrocities in areas near Kyiv that had been occupied by Russian forces. The measures were taken in coordination with other G7 countries and the European Union, the White House said.
A senior Biden administration official told reporters Wednesday that Russia is “descending into economic, financial and technological isolation” that is returning the country to “Soviet-style” living standards.
“The sad reality is that Putin’s war will make it harder for Russians to travel abroad; it means your debit cards may not work. They may only have the option to buy fake phones and fake clothes. Store shelves may be empty,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Wednesday’s sanctions also target Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private financial institution.
“This action will freeze any of the assets of Sberbank and Alfa Bank that are in contact with the US financial system and will prohibit US persons from doing business with them,” the White House said in a statement.
“Sberbank owns almost a third of the assets of the Russian banking sector overall and is systemically critical to the Russian economy.”
Sanctions were also placed on Putin’s two adult daughters, as well as the Foreign Minister. by Sergei Lavrov wife and daughter.
On Monday, President Joe Biden reaffirmed his accusation that Putin is a “war criminal”citing atrocities in Bucha, near kyiv, where bodies were discovered in the streets after the withdrawal of Russian forces.
Biden emphasized after the measures were announced Wednesday that the sanctions are hurting the Russian economy and vowed to continue efforts to further isolate Moscow.
“In just one year, our sanctions are likely to wipe out the last 15 years of Russia’s economic gains,” Biden said.
I made it clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha. Today, together with our allies and partners, we are announcing a new round of devastating sanctions. https://t.co/LVqTDIOSvz
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 6, 2022
In announcing the new sanctions on Wednesday, the White House invoked alleged abuses against Russian forces, including in Bucha. Moscow had denied the rapes, suggesting that the images and evidence of abuse may have been staged.
Earlier this week, the US Treasury blocked Russia from using frozen assets in the US to make debt payments.
“Even if Russia turns to other sources of foreign exchange to keep up with its debt obligations, that will translate into fewer resources available to Putin to finance his war machine,” the US official said on Wednesday.
Russia launched a full invasion from Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff in which Moscow amassed nearly 200,000 troops near the Ukrainian borders while demanding an end to NATO expansion in the former Soviet republics.
The United States and its allies were quick to impose sweeping sanctions on the Russian economy, as well as financial sanctions on Putin and the elites in his inner circle.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US Department of Justice unsealed two sanctions violation charges against Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, the first indictment since the February invasion.
Malofeyev faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each penalty count if convicted, but the Justice Department said he remains at large and is believed to be in Russia.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday that the United States has disrupted a malicious digital network, known as a botnet, controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU).
“The Russian government has recently used a similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets. Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used,” he said. “Thanks to our close work with international partners, we were able to detect the infection of thousands of network hardware devices. We were then able to disable the GRU’s control over those devices before the botnet could be weaponized.”
Last month, the White House urged private companies in the US to beef up digital protections in anticipation of a potential Russian cyber attack targeting the country’s vital infrastructure.
“It doesn’t matter how far you sail your yacht. It doesn’t matter how well you hide your assets. No matter how cleverly you write your malware or hide your online activity, the Justice Department will use every tool available to find you,” Garland said in a message to Russian oligarchs and “criminals” on Wednesday.
Garland also promised that the Justice Department will assist in the investigation of possible war crimes in Ukraine. “Today, we are assisting international efforts to identify and hold accountable those responsible for the atrocities in Ukraine. And we will continue to do so,” she said.