putin: New sanctions by US, UK hit Putin press secy & one of wealthiest Russians among others

NEW DELHI: Vladimir Putin‘s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, was among a host of people in the inner circle of the Russian President and the country’s oligarchs on whom the United States and United Kingdom ordered new sanctions on Thursday in response to the Russian forces’ fierce pummeling of Ukraine.
Apart from Peskov, whom the White House described as” a top purveyor of Putin‘s propaganda”, the Joe Biden administration of the US ordered new sanctions on Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia‘s wealthiest individuals whose net worth is estimated at $18.4 billion, and a close ally of the Russian President. The US state department also announced it was imposing visa bans on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their family members and close associates.
On the other hand the UK government announced a full asset freeze and travel ban on Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov, two of Russia’s leading oligarchs with significant interests in the the country and close links to the Kremlin.
Usmanov, who has had significant interests in English football clubs Arsenal and Everton, owns Beechwood House in Highgate, worth around £48 million, and the 16th century Sutton Place estate in Surrey. A core part of Putin’s inner circle, Shuvalov’s assets in the UK include two luxury apartments in central London worth around £11 m. He also headed up Russia’s bid for the 2018 Football World Cup.
In the United States, the property of Usmanov and others will be blocked from use by Americans. His assets include a superyacht, one of the world’s largest, that was just seized by Germany, and a private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately owned aircraft, that is also covered by the sanctions.
After noting the new sanctions at the start of a meeting with his Cabinet and Vice-President Kamala Harris, US President Biden said, “The goal was to maximize impact on Putin and Russia and minimise the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world.”
The White House said the oligarchs and dozens of their family members will be cut off from the US financial system. Their assets in the United States will be frozen and their property will be blocked from use.
Those targeted on Thursday also 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 US 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 US 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 added at an event hosted by The Washington Post. “Our goal then is to find that money and to freeze that money and to seize it.”
The UK’s foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences. Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war. We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine.”,
The foreign secretary will also establish an Oligarch Taskforce of ministers and officials from departments, including the home office, treasury, department for business energy and industrial strategy, department for levelling up, housing and communities, and the national crime agency. This expert group will coordinate cross-government work to sanction oligarchs, helping build cases against the list of oligarchs it has identified as targets.
These latest sanctions are part of a tough package against Russia, including sanctioning the Russian Central Bank, and banning the State and all its companies from raising funds in the UK. The government will also asset freeze every Russian bank. In coordination with the US and other allies, these measures amount to the largest set of financial sanctions in history.
Since the invasion, the UK has sanctioned 13 of Russia’s leading oligarchs so far. Overall, 15 oligarchs now sit on the sanctions list with one of then, Mikhail Gutseriev, sanctioned under the Belarus sanctions regime.
Biden, however, had thus far been reluctant to hit the Russian energy sector with sanctions out of concern that it would hurt the US 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.”
(with inputs from agencies)

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