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US imposing rare sanctions on Putin personally and his top aide

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Kremlin/Released)
February 25, 2022

In a rare act of sanctions on a foreign leader, the White House announced on Friday it will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In alignment with our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced during a press briefing on Friday afternoon.

The announcement came one day after President Joe Biden announced broader sanctions on Russia that he said would cut off Russia’s assets in the U.S. as well as half of its entire high-tech imports. In his announcement Thursday, Biden said only that sanctions against Putin were “on the table” but ignored a reporter’s question as to why he was not issuing sanctions on Putin then.

When Psaki was asked on Friday why Biden had not sanctioned Putin personally a day prior, she said only that the sanctions were “under consideration and on the table for some time.” 

Psaki said the sanctions will include a travel ban, but did not provide additional details, citing an upcoming Treasury Department release expected later today. It is expected that Putin and Lavrov’s assets in the U.S. will be frozen, as the EU said it would move to do.

“The President’s strong view and strong principle from the beginning of this conflict, and even before I should say, has been to take actions and steps in alignment with our European partners, and this is certainly evidence of that,” Psaki said.

Psaki said Biden is doing “everything in his power” to inflict consequences on Russia except for sending in U.S. troops – which she said he will not do.

Biden admitted on Thursday that the sanctions would not prompt Russia to cease its attacks immediately. “This could take time, and we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them,” Biden said.

Biden said his new severe sanctions will cut off Russia’s assets in the U.S., including VTB Bank, which is Russia’s second-largest bank. The sanctions also target Russia’s elites, as well as its technology sector, which Biden said will “cut off half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”

“Every asset they have in America will be frozen,” Biden said. “This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.”

Biden also said he expects Putin to “test the resolve of the west to see if we stay together – and we will.”

In a statement after his call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Friday, Biden said “As President Putin threatens the very foundations of international peace and security, NATO is once again demonstrating that it stands for freedom and democracy.”