US Sanctions Putin, Other Officials Over Invasion Of Ukraine

Law360 (February 25, 2022, 8:21 PM EST) -- The U.S. slapped sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top government officials over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the White House and the U.S. Department of the Treasury said Friday.

The Biden administration also hit Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Russian national security officials with sanctions, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, ramping up pressure on Moscow following what President Joe Biden has called the country's "premeditated attack" on Ukraine.

The Treasury Department said Friday that Putin and Lavrov are directly responsible for Russia's "unprovoked and unlawful" invasion of Ukraine, noting that it is "exceedingly rare" for the department to sanction a head of state.

"Treasury is continuing to inflict costs on the Russian Federation and President Putin for their brutal and unprovoked assault on the people of Ukraine," Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement Friday.

"We are united with our international allies and partners to ensure Russia pays a severe economic and diplomatic price for its further invasion of Ukraine," she added. "If necessary, we are prepared to impose further costs on Russia for its appalling behavior on the world stage."

The sanctions announced Friday also target security officials, including directors of the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Federal Security Service and the Federal Service of National Guard Troops, as well as the interior minister and other top government officials.

The sanctions directed at Russia's president are just the latest in a series of retaliatory measures that the U.S. has taken in the past few days, alongside allies in Europe.

Biden on Tuesday announced sanctions targeting major state-owned Russian financial institutions Vnesheconombank and Promsvyazbank and their subsidiaries, as well as the nation's elites. The measures also block U.S. entities from buying Russian sovereign debt, a key method for the nation to raise funds, the president said.

"That means we've cut off Russia's government from Western financing," Biden said at the time. "It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either."

Then on Wednesday, Biden turned up the heat with more sanctions on the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would ship Russian gas to Western Europe.

The move came a day after Germany blocked certification of the pipeline, which has already been built and is awaiting final approval to go into service. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced at a Berlin press conference that he asked the country's Federal Ministry of Economics to withdraw a report needed to certify the Nord Stream 2 pipeline after Russia's recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine rendered the situation "fundamentally different."

And on Thursday, Biden announced additional sanctions aimed at Russia's largest banks and extensive restrictions on exports of semiconductors and other high-tech equipment.

Those sanctions target major Russian financial institutions that account for nearly 80% of all banking assets in that country and bar transactions with Sberbank and VTB Bank and their subsidiaries. Russian institutions process about $46 billion in foreign exchange transactions each day, 80% of that in U.S. dollars, and the banks targeted with sanctions will no longer be able to benefit from the U.S. financial system, the Treasury Department said.

"Putin chose this war and now he and his country will bear the consequences," Biden said at the White House on Thursday. "We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximize the impact on Russia and minimize the impact on the U.S. and its allies."

Putin had argued in a televised address on Monday that moving into Ukraine was necessary to protect civilians in Ukraine's separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics from Ukrainian aggression — an argument U.S. officials said was pretextual — and protect Russia's security, after the U.S. and its allies had ignored Russian demands to bar Ukraine from joining NATO.

Ukrainian officials said Thursday that Russia's invasion was an attempt to "destroy" the country, a former Soviet Union state, as it tries to move away from Russia's influence.

--Additional reporting by Grace Dixon, Keith Goldberg and Daniel Wilson. Editing by Ellen Johnson.

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