Western powers deal sanctions on Putin and Lavrov

The United States will join the EU and Britain in freezing the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov under a new package of sanctions aimed at bolstering the West’s response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Joe Biden, President of the United States, made the decision after a call with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the White House said on Friday. Western powers will also target members of Russia’s national security team.

The sanctions on Putin and Lavrov follow similar measures that the West has leveled against Russian banks and oligarchs in recent days in the hope of convincing Putin to change course in Ukraine. — or at least make him pay the economic cost of the invasion.

Foreign ministers approved the EU sanctions package at a meeting on Friday, along with measures against Russian banks and industry.

The UK will impose its own sanctions “imminent” on Putin and Lavrov, as Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has urged the West to take “immediate action” to remove Russia from Fast international payment system to “cause maximum pain to President Putin and his regime”.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, dismissed such measures, saying: “Neither Putin nor Lavrov have accounts in the UK or anywhere else.”

Under EU measures, Putin and Lavrov will not be subject to a travel ban, underscoring the bloc’s willingness to keep iconic diplomatic avenues open.

Other proposals would freeze some transactions with a range of Russian banks, ban some state-owned companies from listing on stock exchanges in the bloc and prevent Russian citizens from depositing large sums of money in banks. EU goods.

The West is facing calls to increase pressure on Putin as he ramps up his attack on Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, on Friday criticized Europe for not imposing tough sanctions on Moscow, calling on Putin to negotiate to “prevent death”.

Direct sanctions against foreign leaders are rare for the EU. Among those previously targeted were Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, and Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.

Arriving at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said: “We will hit Putin’s system, not only economically and financially, but also at the core of power. And that is why we have to list not only the oligarchs, but also many members of parliament who have prepared these steps, and we are also now listing the president of the republic, Mr. and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “

Von der Leyen said she expected the measures, when finalized, to have “maximum impact on the Russian economy and on the political class”.

Paolo Gentiloni, the EU’s economic commissioner, said the second package was “very important and very effective” but would not be the last one imposed by Europe.

The EU is also discussing whether to cut off Russian banks’ access to the Swift network. Bruno Le Maire, French Finance Minister, on Friday said that the EU’s desire to cut Russia off from the world financial system and strip the country of its access to Swift remains an option.

Member states, including Germany and Italy, were concerned that blocking Russia’s use of Swift would damage their own economies or financial systems. The move, for example, could make dealings with Russian companies difficult for countries that buy their oil and gas.

Baerbock said the experience of removing Iran from the Swift system shows how far-reaching the impact can be.

“For example, we have seen in Iran that we can no longer use it to fund humanitarian projects. It also means that people in Russia, for example, a niece living in Europe won’t be able to transfer money to her grandmother. That sounds small. . . but those responsible for this bloodshed will, of course, have ways and means to make their financial payments,” said the German foreign minister.

A senior European banker said cutting Swift from Moscow could backfire for Western countries given Russia’s nascent payment system and may seek to strengthen its financial connections with China. .

A second package of sanctions to be agreed on Friday will expand the list of Russian banks blocked by the EU from funding Alfa-Bank and Bank Otkritie, two private lenders, among five. state-owned, as planned by the Financial Times. .

Lending and securities purchases will be banned in some Russian state-owned enterprises, including companies in the aviation and defense sectors, shipping and shipbuilding. Russians will not be able to make any new deposits of more than €100,000 into EU banks.

Reporting by Eleni Varvitsioti, Sam Fleming and Henry Foy in Brussels, Victor Mallet in Paris, George Parker in London, Erika Solomon in Berlin, Javier Espinoza in Brussels and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

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