Biden administration moves to freeze assets of Putin, Lavrov

Russia At War

KYIV, Ukraine (NewsNation Now) — The Biden administration announced Friday that it will move to freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, following the European Union and Britain in directly sanctioning top Russian leadership.

The Treasury Department announced the new sanctions shortly after the EU said it had also approved an asset freeze against Putin and Lavrov as part of a broader package of sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told NATO leaders during a call Friday that Britain would move to impose sanctions against Putin and Lavrov.

These sanctions come a day after U.S. President Joe Biden issued a host of other sanctions on Russia, following what he called “a premeditated attack” on Ukraine. Thursday’s sanctions aimed to cut Russia off from U.S. financial markets, an action that included freezing the assets of four major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-largest bank.

Biden even sanctioned several Russian oligarchs and elites Thursday, cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, freezing any assets they hold in the country and blocking their travel to the United States.

It’s not immediately clear how impactful Friday’s actions, which directly target the Russian president,will affect him. But they act as a warning for Putin, that he could end up an international pariah if he doesn’t stop the invasion of Ukraine.

While there was a bipartisan call for this move, there are other options Biden has not employed. For example, barring Russia from using the international SWIFT system to transfer money and even sending more advanced weaponry to help Ukraine fighters.

“What are they waiting for?” former National Security Advisor John Bolton said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert.” “This is a signal to Putin of further weakness.”

Russian troops continued their push on Ukraine’s capital, with gunfire and explosions approaching the city center, triggering fears of a wider war in Europe on Friday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said leaders agreed to send rapid response troops to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine as Russian troops continued their march toward Kyiv.

Speaking after chairing a NATO meeting, Stoltenberg said the leaders decided to send parts of the NATO Response Force and elements of a quickly deployed spearhead unit. He did not say how many troops would be deployed, but confirmed that the move would involve land, sea and air power.

In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine remains under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized. The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelenskyy instead of a gesture toward a diplomatic solution.

NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said the world should not underestimate Russian President Vladimir Putin or take his word at face value.

“We underestimate Putin or we don’t listen to Putin at our own peril,” Vittert said. “Remember, this is a guy who just a week and a half ago was saying he was pulling all of his troops off the border because the exercise was over.”

Putin claimed the refusal to discuss keeping Ukraine out of NATO prompted him to order military action in Ukraine to “demilitarize” it. Before the invasion, the West had rejected the demand.

With reports of hundreds of casualties from the warfare — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — there also were growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government. It would be Putin’s boldest effort yet to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

Ukrainians were urged to shelter in place and not to panic. Thousands of people went deep underground, jamming Kyiv’s subway stations, for protection.

So far, Ukraine has reported at least 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed.

Russian military claimed it seized a strategic airport outside the capital, cutting Kyiv off from the west — the direction in which many of those escaping the invasion are headed, with lines of cars snaking toward the Polish border.

The government announced a full military mobilization, barring male Ukrainian citizens from leaving the country while martial law is in place, and Friday dropping the 18-60 age requirement for joining the army, saying, “Today Ukraine needs everything.”

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a resolution that would condemn Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine “in the strongest terms.” It also would demand an immediate halt to Russia’s invasion and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. Also on Friday, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief said it plans to seek over $1 billion in donations for humanitarian relief in Ukraine, the day after it was announced that the U.N. was immediately allocating $20 million to expand humanitarian operations in Ukraine.

“Not all possibilities for sanctions have been exhausted yet. The pressure on Russia must increase,” Ukraine President Zelenskyy tweeted early Friday. He called on Western leaders to take further steps to contain Russian aggression, saying the sanctions imposed earlier this week didn’t prevent Moscow from continuing the offensive.

Zelenskyy tweeted that he and Biden had discussed “strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an antiwar coalition,” adding that he was grateful to the U.S. for the support.

Biden said he is sending an additional 7,000 troops to deploy to Germany to help bolster NATO’s defense. Biden has made clear that the U.S. would go after Russia financially, not militarily. The goal is to make Moscow pay so high a price that the Kremlin will change course.

“Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” Biden said.

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, NewsNation will bring Americans the latest developments from abroad and insights into its impact at home throughout our newscasts. We’re dropping the paywall on our livestream so it’s available to everyone. You can watch NewsNation’s programming, including the latest on Ukraine, at the top of the hour from 7 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. ET.

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