July 6, 2022

US and Europe escalate Russia sanctions to target Putin directly

US and Europe escalate Russia sanctions to target Putin directly

Brussels (AFP) – The United States and its European allies said on Friday they had beefed up sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by adding measures directly targeting President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, unilateralizing diplomatic appeals as Russian forces shut down the Ukrainian capital.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the move by the United States, the European Union and Britain sent a “clear message about the strength of the opposition to the measures” by Putin. On the day when explosions and gunfire rang out in Kiev’s capital, and Pope Francis went to Russia’s embassy in Rome to personally demand an end, the sanctions were part of the growing global condemnation of the attack.

Asked by reporters whether US President Joe Biden is planning any other direct diplomatic initiatives towards Putin, whose ground and air forces are launching an attack on major cities in Ukraine, Psaki answered in the negative.

“I would say that the moment when a leader is … in the midst of invading a sovereign country is not the moment when diplomacy feels appropriate,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing. “This does not mean that we have ruled out diplomacy forever.”

Psaki said the United States is preparing individual sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, likely to include travel bans. The announcement came hours after the European Union announced its intention to freeze Putin’s assets, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told NATO leaders that his country would punish Putin and Lavrov.

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Psaki said the United States would also impose new sanctions on the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which acts as a sovereign wealth fund aimed at attracting capital into the Russian economy.

American and European allies announced a blanket asset freeze and other sanctions Thursday against Russian banks, state-owned companies and elites, but they spared the Russian leader and foreign minister on that tour.

A US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Biden administration’s talks internally on the issue, said there was debate among administration officials over whether to include Lavrov in the sanctions, as some wanted to ensure a path of diplomatic communication remained open.

While the sanctions that would be imposed would not ban contact, for example, between Putin and Biden, or US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Lavrov, they did set a new chill for what had been weeks of repeated diplomatic efforts with Russia as Putin built up forces. On the borders of Ukraine. The debate about including Lavrov went back and forth, and one of the reasons was that the individual sanctions were not announced along with the other measures taken on Thursday.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, described the allies’ decision to freeze Putin’s own assets as the right one.

It was President Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine. … He is responsible for the war that the Russian Federation is waging on us now, Markarova told reporters at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington.

The U.S. actions on Friday prevent Putin and Lavrov, whom the Treasury Department’s official announcement of sanctions described as “Putin’s primary promoter,” from accessing any assets within reach of U.S. officials, and prevent anyone in the United States from doing business with them. Members of the Russian Security Council were also punished.

It was not clear what practical effect the two men had and how important their European origins were.

“I can assure you that if you get big assets and all of a sudden you can’t take it, it’s going to cost you,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

EU ministers said more sanctions could still be imposed, including the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT, the system that dominates global financial transactions.

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

And the Council of Europe embraced Russia even more, suspending Russia’s membership in the continent’s premier human rights organization. The 47-nation council said Russia remains a member and remains bound by relevant human rights treaties.

Russia did not flinch in the game of punitive sanctions, as it began its retaliatory measures, banning British flights to and through its territory in response to a similar British ban on Aeroflot flights.

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

However, with the eyes of the Kremlin fully targeted for expanding attacks on Ukraine, almost all business was still going in one direction.

From an inaudible perspective since the Cold War, threats have been flying from all sides and pervasive in society.

Referring to papal anger, Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy “to express his concern about the war,” the Vatican said, referring to the papal anger. It was an unusual gesture, as popes usually receive ambassadors and heads of state at the Vatican.

The UEFA Champions League Final on May 28, European football’s Super Bowl, has been stripped from St Petersburg and will move to Paris. Formula One has dropped this season’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in protest.

And in pop culture, the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest banned Russia from the May finals in Turin, Italy.

Countries in Asia and the Pacific have joined The United States, the European Union and other countries in the West are piling up punitive measures against leading Russian banks and companies. Countries have also put in place export controls aimed at starving Russian industries and the military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.

“Japan must clearly demonstrate its position that we will not tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Friday.

Taiwan announced on Friday that it would join the economic sanctions, although it did not specify what those sanctions would be. They are likely to focus on monitoring the export of semiconductor chips, of which Taiwan is the dominant producer.

While most countries in Asia rallied to support Ukraine, China continued to condemn sanctions against Russia and blamed the United States and its allies for provoking Moscow. Beijing, wary of American power in Asia, has increasingly aligned its foreign policy with Russia to challenge the West.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison complained that “the Chinese government is continuing to ease trade restrictions with Russia and this is simply not acceptable.” “You can’t go and throw a lifeline to Russia in the middle of the time they’re invading another country.”

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AP writers Foster Klug in Tokyo, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Matthew Lee in Washington, along with other AP journalists around the world, contributed to this report.

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Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine