Biden admin sanctions Kremlin spokesman, more oligarchs

The Biden administration on Thursday announced sanctions on eight prominent Russians with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, leveling additional penalties on Moscow for invading Ukraine.

The White House announced plans to impose full blocking sanctions on Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, whose $600 million yacht was seized by Germany on Wednesday. The Biden administration is also sanctioning Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who the White House labeled a “top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda.” 

Both individuals have already been sanctioned by the European Union.  

“These individuals and their family members will be cut off from the U.S. financial system, their assets in the United States will be frozen and their property will be blocked from use,” reads a White House fact sheet announcing the new sanctions.

The new sanctions will hit a handful of wealthy Russians with ties to the Kremlin, and some of their family members will also be targeted.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the action would significantly impact those around Putin.   

“What we’re talking about here is seizing their assets, seizing their yachts, and making it harder for them to send their children to colleges and universities in the West,” Psaki said.  

The list includes Nikolai Tokarev, who heads Russian pipeline company Transneft; Boris Rotenberg, co-owner of gas pipeline construction company SGM Group;  Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation and a close ally of Putin; former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov; and “Putin’s chef” Yevgeniy Prigozhin.   

The administration also said it is imposing visa restrictions on 19 Russian oligarchs and 47 of their family members and close associates  

“These oligarchs are known to direct, authorize, fund, significantly support, or carry out malign activities in support of Russia’s destabilizing foreign policy,” the White House said.  

The Biden administration, in coordination with European partners, has unveiled several tranches of financial sanctions targeting Russian banks and elites over the past week as Russia has intensified its military campaign against Ukraine.  

The administration has targeted other Russian elites as well as Putin himself and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.  

Speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon, President Biden said the penalties are already having a “profound impact” on the Russian economy.  

Still, Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers in recent days to ban U.S. imports of Russian oil and gas. The White House has thus far resisted those calls, saying it could cause domestic energy prices to rise.  

“The goal was to maximize the impact on Putin and Russia and minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world,” Biden said Thursday.  

In order to enforce sanctions on Russian oligarchs, the Justice Department on Wednesday launched a new task force to prosecute individuals who try to evade sanctions. The White House has asked Congress for $59 million to support the new task force. 

“The Department of Treasury will share financial intelligence and other evidence where appropriate with the Department of Justice to support criminal prosecutions and seizure of assets,” the White House fact sheet said Thursday.

Additionally, the administration announced plans to sanction seven Russian entities and 26 individuals based in Russia and Ukraine the U.S. says are contributing to Russian disinformation campaigns related to the invasion of Ukraine. 

Updated at 3:04 p.m.

Tags conflict Jen Psaki Joe Biden oligarchs Russia sanctions Ukraine Vladimir Putin White House

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