US and Europe plan sanctions on Putin and Lavrov in retaliation for Ukraine invasion

The 27-nation European Union said it planned to freeze the assets of the two EU-based men. Britain and the United States did not immediately release details of their measures. Neither official is believed to control extensive properties – or any – in their own name inside the European Union. EU policymakers have said they will freeze other assets that men indirectly control.

“Following a telephone conversation between President Biden and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and in accordance with the decision of our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference. “I think we’ll have more details. accurate later this afternoon.”

It was not immediately clear which assets — and in which countries — the Biden administration plans to target. Psaki declined to address details of Putin’s assets on Friday, telling reporters only that the move “sends a clear message about the strength of opposition to President Putin’s actions and the direction of his military leadership.” Russian”.

A travel ban will likely be part of US sanctions, Psaki added.

She then announced that the U.S. government would impose “full blocking sanctions” on the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund that has been trying for years to foster the growth of Western-style companies in technology and development. other leading sectors in Russia.

Also on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada plans to sanction Putin, Lavrov and several members of Putin’s inner circle.

“These men bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction in Ukraine,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We have made it clear that all options are on the table when it comes to imposing heavy costs on the unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of Russia.”

The EU decision was part of a wider series of sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for invading Ukraine. It is unlikely to be the last move taken against the Kremlin during the conflict, policymakers said.

Neither man will be banned from traveling to the European Union, a step that in some ways would have been more concrete but could also have complicated any diplomatic settlement in the face of the escalating violence that Russia is inflicting on its next to.

“Russia must see that it is going to be isolated from the international community,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he announced the measures in Brussels on Friday.

Friday’s measures add to a growing list of international condemnations of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, whose President Volodymyr Zelensky said he believed the Kremlin was trying to kill him.

Russia was also kicked out of the Eurovision Song Contest, its annual Formula 1 race was canceled and the European Champions League moved its soccer final from St Petersburg.

“It may seem like a small thing geopolitically, but it will have broad social resonance,” Borrell said.

The European Union has generally refrained from directly targeting national leaders except in extraordinary circumstances.

EU policymakers do not believe that Putin and Lavrov have assets to their name within the European Union, but that they indirectly control the assets. Officials intend to go after those assets, a senior EU diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive intelligence issue.

Borrell acknowledged there was “a lot of work to do” to track down the assets.

The bloc also imposed measures it said would cut 70% of the banking sector from the international financial system and make international borrowing more expensive. The effect, Borrell said, will be to drive up inflation in Russia and erode its industrial base.

The measures came after EU leaders met late Friday morning to discuss how best to punish Russia for its actions. “The senseless suffering and loss of civilian life must stop,” tweeted European Council President Charles Michel.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed on February 25 to stay in Kyiv as his troops battle Russian invaders advancing on the capital. (Reuters)

“The massive and targeted sanctions package that European leaders have approved this evening clearly demonstrates that it will have the maximum impact on the Russian economy and the political elite,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during the meeting. a press conference following the talks on Friday morning.

But the measures withheld on a key issue that Russian hawks say would be particularly painful for the Russian economy – excluding the country’s financial institutions from the SWIFT payment system. This would make it difficult for Russian banks and companies to conduct international transactions, although it could also risk cutting off Russian gas to Europe if payments for fuel were blocked.

On Friday, European politicians castigated the holdouts. Former European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that some member countries had “disgraced themselves” by not hitting Russia harder, citing Italy, Hungary and Germany among others.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the UK would introduce sanctions against Putin and Lavrov “immediately”, although he did not give details on what form the sanctions would take.

Johnson told NATO leaders on Friday afternoon that ‘catastrophe was engulfing’ Ukraine and that Putin was ‘engaging in a revenge mission to overthrow the post-Cold War order’, according to a spokeswoman. of Downing Street. Johnson also urged leaders to pull Russia out of the SWIFT international banking system to “inflict maximum pain” on Putin and his regime.

Rauhala reported from Brussels. Quentin Ariès in Brussels and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

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