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US, Britain announce new sanctions hitting Russian billionaires, associates of Putin

Igor Sechin, Vladimir Putin, Rex Tillerson (Пресс-служба Президента России/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has announced new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and others in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

The announcement on March 3 came as Russian forces pressed on with their invasion of Ukraine, killing and injuring thousands of people and forcing an estimated 1 million people to flee.

Aside from Peskov, described in a White House statement about the sanctions as “a top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda,” the U.S. sanctions apply to Alisher Usmanov, identified by the White House as one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin.

The U.S. State Department also announced it was imposing visa bans on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their family members and close associates.

“These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people,” the White House statement said in detailing the new measures, which match earlier actions against Russia’s wealthiest figures announced by the European Union.

The U.K. government also imposed sanctions on Usmanov and former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who was among those sanctioned on March 3 by the United States. The British Foreign Office said the pair have “significant interests in the U.K. and close links to the Kremlin.” The U.K. sanctions take immediate effect, the Foreign Office said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the sanctions send a “clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime.”

The EU’s actions include several Russian billionaires close to the Kremlin and Peskov. The United States, Britain, and Europe are using the sanctions to inflict financial pain on Russian elites as a means of getting to Putin.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on March 1 in his State of the Union address that the United States would work to seize the yachts, luxury apartments, and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Putin.

The White House statement on March 3 said the action targeted “an expansive list of Putin’s cronies and their family members,” including the Uzbekistan-born Usmanov.

His property, including his super yacht, will be blocked from use in the United States, the statement said, confirming an earlier report that said German authorities had seized the 156-meter super yacht estimated to be worth $600 million.

Usmanov’s private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately owned aircraft, is also covered by the sanctions.

Earlier on March 3, the French government said it had seized a super yacht linked to powerful Russian tycoon Igor Sechin, one of Putin’s closest associates. The vessel, owned by a company linked to Sechin, the chief executive officer of Russian energy giant Rosneft, was seized as part of the measures taken by the European Union against Russia.

The United States will continue to work with our allies and partners “to hold accountable the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who are profiting from this violent regime,” the White House said.

“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,” the White House said.

Others targeted by the new sanctions include oligarchs Nikolai Tokarev, Arkady Rotenberg, Sergei Chemezov, and Yevgeniy Prigozhin and members of their families.