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US joins EU in agreeing to freeze assets of Russia’s Putin and Lavrov

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

The Biden administration has announced that it will move to freeze the assets of President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, following the European Union and the United Kingdom in directly sanctioning top Russian leadership.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions shortly after the EU said it had also approved an asset freeze against Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov as part of a broader package of sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told Nato leaders during a call on Friday that Britain would move to impose sanctions against Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov.

It was not immediately clear how impactful an asset freeze would be on the pair, but the direct action targeting the Russian president was meant to be seen as a warning to Mr Putin that he could emerge as an international pariah if he does not end the invasion of Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated the US sanctions will include a travel ban. President Joe Biden, who had previously said sanctions targeting Mr Putin were under consideration, decided to make the move in the last 24 hours after talks with European leaders.

The US Treasury Department is expected to release more details later on Friday.

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Ms Psaki said the move is intended send “a clear message about the the strength of the opposition to the actions” by the West against President Putin.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the move would be “a unique step in history toward a nuclear power, a country that has a permanent seat on the Security Council, but also shows … how united we are”.

It was unclear what the practical impact on the two men would be and how important their assets in the EU were.

“I can assure you that if you got major assets and all of a sudden you can’t get hold of them, it will cost you,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. He did not provide details.

EU ministers have said that even further sanctions were still possible, including booting Russia out of Swift, the dominant system for global financial transactions.

“The debate about Swift is not off the table, it will continue,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.

Admonishing Russia further, the Council of Europe suspended Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights organisation. The 47-nation council said Russia remained a member and continued to be bound by the relevant human rights conventions.

Undeterred in the game of punitive sanctions, Russia started its own tit-for-tat measures, banning British flights to and over its territory in retaliation to a similar UK ban on Aeroflot flights.

Russian authorities also announced the “partial restriction” of access to Facebook after the social media network limited the accounts of several Kremlin-backed media.

Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it demanded that Facebook lift the restrictions it placed on Thursday on state news agency RIA Novosti, state TV channel Zvezda, and pro-Kremlin news sites Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru.

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