US, EU slap new sanctions on Russia targeting officials, oligarchs

The Biden administration on Thursday issued a raft of new sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with targets including several yachts linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a yacht brokerage and a cellist it says acts as a middleman for the Russian leader.

The United States and other Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s economy since the Feb. 24 invasion, including the country’s central bank and major financial institutions.

In his State of the Union address in March, Biden said the United States would work to seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Putin.

The US Treasury Department identified two vessels, the Russian-flagged Graceful and the Cayman Islands-flagged Olympia as property in which Putin has an interest. The Russian president, who was blacklisted the day after his Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, has taken numerous trips on the yachts, including one in the Black Sea with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko last year, the Treasury said.

It also identified two other yachts it said were used by Putin and owned by a sanctioned Russian company.

The Treasury also targeted Imperial Yachts, a brokerage based in Monaco that allows superyacht owners, including Russian oligarchs, to charter their boats when they are not using them, as well as an aviation company it said was involved in a scheme to transfer aircraft to an offshore company to avoid sanctions.

The Biden administration also added Sergei Roldugin, a cellist and conductor already under European Union sanctions for his links to Putin, to its list of sanctioned individuals. The order froze his US assets from him and barred US people from dealing with them.

The State Department also imposed sanctions on five Russian oligarchs and members of the country’s elite, including the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova.

Putin sent his troops over the border on what he calls a special military operation on Feb. 24 to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.

Russia on Thursday also warned that European consumers will be the first to suffer after Brussels introduced a partial embargo on Russian oil over Ukraine.

“As a result of these decisions, European consumers will suffer above all,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in televised remarks, adding there may be a “big deficit” of oil products in the European Union.

On Monday, the EU agreed to a sixth package of sanctions on Moscow that will see the majority of Russian oil stopped, but exempted supplies by pipeline in a concession to Hungary.

EU officials say the new sanctions will see some 90% of Russian oil exports to the EU halted by the end of the year.

Novak played down the effects of the embargo, suggesting that the market would adjust in about six to eight months.

He said Russia planned to ramp up oil production after a drop in March and April.

“In May, we already partially restored production,” he said. “In June, we will see an even greater recovery.”

The package is seen as the most powerful sanctions taken to date against Moscow after five previous waves of punishment that have rocked the Russian economy but failed to halt the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.

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