US targets more elites to further cripple Russian economy

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — Wealthy allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are once again the target of U.S. financial sanctions, as the Biden administration moved on Thursday to target elite oligarchs, their yachts, private jets and other financial holdings in an effort to put more pressure on a struggling Russian economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department said these sanctions were specifically designed to target “support networks” Putin and his wealthy allies use to hide and move their financial assets.

“Today’s action demonstrates that Treasury can and will go after those responsible for shielding and maintaining these ill-gotten interests,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson in a news release. “We will continue to enforce our sanctions and expose the corrupt systems by which President Putin and his elites enrich themselves.”

The United States and other Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s economy since the Feb. 24 invasion, and Washington has pledged to take more measures as long as the war continues.

The White House is projecting these added sanctions will take a heavy toll on a reeling Russian economy.

“The Russian economy is staggering under the weight of financial and trade sanctions, export controls, and the exodus of approximately 1,000 U.S. and multinational businesses,” a White House news release said . “Analysts are projecting a double-digit decline in Russian GDP in 2022, soaring inflation estimated near 20% in 2022, and Putin’s war is projected to wipe out the last 15 years of economic gains in Russia.”

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

The Treasury on Thursday 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 Department said.

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

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.

FILE PHOTO: A screen grab from drone video footage shows a Russian-owned superyacht, Amadea, docked at Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji on May 3, 2022. Reuters TV via REUTERS

Five of Russia’s wealthiest and most influential individuals were the target of sanctions by the U.S. State Department.

God Nisanov, “one of the richest men in Europe” who has ties to “several Russian officials,” according to the State Department, was designated, as was Evgeny Novitskiy, another Russian elite who is said to have ties to the government.

A Russian government official, Maria Zakharova, who serves as the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also added to the list by the State Department on Thursday.

Sergei Gorkov, the head of a geological exploration company in Russia, was also sanctioned.

One of Russia’s “wealthiest billionaires,” Alexey Mordashov, was cited by the State Department along with his wife and two adult children. Mordashov is the head of Severgroup and three other companies all targeted by the U.S.

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, saying Roldugin was “part of a system that manages President Putin’s offshore wealth.” The order froze Roldugin’s U.S. assets and barred U.S. people from dealing with them.

Putin in 2016 defended Roldugin after he was named in the “Panama Papers” leaks, denying there was anything corrupt about his friend’s involvement in offshore companies.

“The United States will continue to support the people of Ukraine while promoting accountability for President Putin and those enabling Russian aggression,” said U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a news release.

The Department of Commerce also added 71 parties in Russia and Belarus to its entity list in a move meant to restrict the Russian military’s access to technology, the White House said in a fact sheet.

A company placed on the entity list faces sweeping restrictions on shipments to Russia of both U.S. and foreign commodities, technology and software, if produced with U.S. equipment, technology or software.

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

FILE PHOTO: Superyacht Motor Yacht A, owned by Russian tycoon Andrey Melnichenko, is seen moored on the River Thames besides HMS Belfast in London Sept. 6, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Reuters contributed to this report.

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