As a result of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada announced on February 25 the implementation of a series of sanctions personally targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – in addition to the sanctions taken against other Russian personalities, entities and companies.
The spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, reacted the same day by declaring on Russian television that these sanctions were “an example and a demonstration of the absolute impotence” of Western foreign policy. According to her, Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov do not have accounts in countries other than Russia.
In the United States, assets frozen and travel ban
On February 25, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced that the United States was sanctioning Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, barring them from entering its territory – a highly symbolic decision, against foreign leaders.
Ella said the ban on travel to the United States will be “a part” of these measures, adding that it was “a usual element” of the sanctions taken against foreign figures.
The two men thus join a list of leaders directly sanctioned by the United States on which appear the Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, the president of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro, the North Korean Kim Jong Un, or even the Syrian president Bashar el-Assad.
Describing the decision as “extremely rare”, the US Treasury then released in a statement the details of the sanctions mechanism, specifying that they would also apply to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Head of State – Major General of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov.
The institution specified that the sanctioned personalities would see all their assets in the United States frozen, and that any American person or entity would be prohibited from doing business with them. It is nevertheless difficult to assess the real impact of the financial sanctions – which consist of blocking the funds and properties of the personalities concerned – due to the lack of details on the amount and nature of the assets targeted. Washington also announced sanctions against 24 Belarusian individuals and organizations accused of supporting and helping to set up the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
Subsequently, Jen Psaki announced on Twitter that the United States would also sanction the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a public entity intended to attract American investment into the Russian economy.
The Secretary of Treasury will also be imposing full blocking sanctions on the Russian Direct Investment Fund–a state owned financial entity that functions as a sovereign wealth fund, which is supposed to attract capital into the Russian economy in high-growth sectors.
—Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 25, 2022
The first tranche of comprehensive US sanctions affects four Russian banks, including the country’s two largest, Sberbank and VTB Bank. But faced with these measures, the Bank of Russia and the government have already announced on February 25 that they would support the sanctioned banks and provide them with “all necessary assistance”.
More than half of Russia’s technology imports will also be cut by Washington. Energy giant Gazprom and other big companies in the country – 13 in total – for their part will no longer be able to raise money in Western financial markets, a sanction that had already been imposed on the Russian government itself. . Exports to Russia of technological products intended for the defense and aeronautics sectors have also been restricted.
UK wants to ‘inflict maximum pain’ on Kremlin
Also on February 25, the British government announced that it had frozen the alleged assets of Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov. The Treasury said it had added the two men to its list of entities and individuals targeted by sanctions because of their role in “destabilizing Ukraine” or “threatening its territorial integrity”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed his allies the same day at a NATO crisis summit that he planned to “imminently” sanction the Russian president and his chief diplomat, after a series of sanctions decided this week targeting in particular oligarchs and Russian banks.
Describing the Russian offensive as a “disaster” and considering that Vladimir Putin was engaged in a “revanchist mission to overthrow the post-Cold War order”, the British leader also urged his counterparts in NATO member countries to ” act immediately” to exclude Russia from the Swift banking system, “in order to inflict maximum suffering” on the Kremlin, according to a Downing Street spokeswoman.
In addition to the five banks and three oligarchs already sanctioned on February 22, the United Kingdom imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia two days later. These ban the airline Aeroflot and target the banking sector, technology exports and five businessmen. In response, Russia notably announced the closure of its airspace to any aircraft linked to the United Kingdom.
Canada wants to “suffocate the Russian regime”
Also on February 25, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau announced that the country was going to put in place a “third series of concerted sanctions” specifically targeting Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, but also the Belarusian government which, according to him, “facilitated” the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
“President Putin’s contempt for freedom, democracy, international law and human life must have consequences,” said the head of the Canadian government at a press conference. The latter nevertheless noted that “the world has reacted in an unprecedented, united and coordinated manner to the serious error of Vladimir Putin”, one of the men who, according to him, bears “the greatest responsibility for the deaths and destruction in Ukraine”.
“Why are we doing this? Because we want to make sure we stifle the Russian regime!” declared Mélanie Joly, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On February 24, Canada – which has the second largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world – had already sanctioned 58 Russian individuals and entities, and suspended all export permits for Russia. Earlier this week, Ottawa announced a first salvo of sanctions: a ban on transactions with the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, sanctions against Russian parliamentarians and banks and a ban on Canadians buying Russian debt. Ottawa has also suspended export permits for Russia, for a value of more than 700 million Canadian dollars (about 490 million euros) and targeting in particular companies in the aerospace, mining and information technology sectors.
After the unsuccessful negotiations of recent months between Russia and Western chancelleries on the Ukrainian file, the Russian army began a military intervention on February 24 in the neighboring country, giving rise to numerous condemnations on the international scene. The military operation aims, according to Vladimir Putin, to defend the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (recognized as independent by Russia) against Kiev, but also to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, according to its terms. It has been, in Western capitals but also in Russia, the subject of protest demonstrations.