WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration ordered new sanctions blocking Russian business oligarchs and others in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle on Thursday in response to Russian forces’ fierce pummeling of Ukraine.
Those targeted by the new sanctions include Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, 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.
“The goal was to maximize impact on Putin and Russia and minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world,” Biden said as he noted the new sanctions at the start of a meeting with his Cabinet and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The White House said the oligarchs and dozens of 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 described Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, as” a top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda.”
The property of Usmanov and the others will be blocked from use in the United States and by, Americans. His assets include his superyacht, one of the world’s largest, that was just seized by Germany. Usmanov’s private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately owned aircraft, is also covered by the sanctions.
Others targeted on Thursday include Nikolai Tokarev, a Transneft oil executive, Arkady Rotenberg, co-owner of the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia; Sergei Chemezov, a former KGB agent who has long been close to Putin; Igor Shuvalov, a former first deputy prime minister and chairman of State Development Corp., and Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with close ties to Putin.
Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef,” was among those charged in 2018 by the U.S. government as being part of a wide-ranging effort to sway political opinion in America during the 2016 presidential election.
According to the indictment then, Prigozhin and his companies provided significant funding to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based group accused of using bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to influence the White House race.
Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said Thursday that the Biden administration would continue to target Russian elites as it builds sanctions against the country. He said elites are already “attempting to get their money out of Russia, because the Russian economy is shrinking.”
“We’re going to make it hard for them to use the assets going forward,” Adeyemo said at an event hosted by The Washington Post. He added, “Our goal then is to find that money and to freeze that money and to seize it.”
Biden had thus far been reluctant to hit the Russia energy sector with sanctions out of concern that it would hurt the U.S. and its allies as well as the Russians.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy,.”
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed reporting.