WASHINGTON: The White House announced sanctions Wednesday targeting Russia's top public and private banks and two daughters of Vladimir Putin, adding pressure on the country's economy and its elite over the invasion of Ukraine.
The new sanctions targeted Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, two adult daughters of Putin's with his former wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva.
Also hit with new sanctions were the wife and daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and members of Russia’s Security Council, including former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
"These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Some of them are responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine," the White House said in a statement.
"We believe that many of Putin's assets are hidden with family members, and that's why we're targeting them," a senior US official told reporters, referring to the two daughters.
The White House also declared "full blocking" sanctions on Russia's largest public and private financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank, and said all new US investment in Russia was now prohibited.
And it said that new sanctions would be announced Thursday on key Russian state enterprises, aiming to hamper their ability to trade and move money through the global financial system.
President Joe Biden tied the escalation of sanctions directly to the evidence that has mounted that Russian forces deliberately murdered civilians in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv.
"I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha," Biden tweeted.
The new sanctions were being coordinated with US allies in Europe and elsewhere, aiming to further damage the Russian economy in order to pressure Putin to stop the war.
"Today, in alignment with G7 allies and partners, we are intensifying the most severe sanctions ever levied on a major economy," the official said on grounds of anonymity.
The sanctions on the two banks broadened an earlier measure that blocked certain capital transactions with them.
Now any asset the bank has that is or comes under US jurisdiction will be frozen, and people and companies under US jurisdiction are banned from doing business with them.
This could have a significant impact on Sberbank, which holds nearly one-third of the assets in the Russian banking industry.
However, the US sanctions continued to avoid Russia's energy sector, which still reaps millions of dollars daily from European customers for its natural gas.
Energy-related transactions at the two banks will still be permitted, the White House said.
In a parallel action Wednesday, the US Justice Department indicted Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev for sanctions violations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Russian billionaire was a source of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea and supported pro-Moscow separatists in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine.
"After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe," Garland told reporters.
"Malofeyev played a leading role in supporting Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine, continues to run a pro-Putin propaganda network, and recently described Russia’s 2022 military invasion of Ukraine as a ‘holy war,’” said FBI official Michael Driscoll.