The new sanctions include a ban on all new investments in Russia, increased restrictions on two major financial institutions in Russia — Sberbank and Alfa-Bank — and penalties on Russian government officials and their family members, including Putin’s daughters, Katerina Tikhonova, 36, and Mariya Putina, 35. Putin’s daughters will be cut off from the U.S. financial system and any assets they hold in the United States will be frozen.
“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that’s why we’re targeting them,” a senior administration official said.
“We have known for years that President Putin uses his family, uses his inner circle, uses his cronies and presumably uses his daughters as well to hide, guard and protect all of his wealth, all of his ill-gotten gains that obviously they’re enjoying as well,” said Casey Michel on Dan Abrams Live Wednesday. Michel, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, wrote the book “American Kleptocracy: How the U.S. created the world’s greatest money laundering scheme in history,” and is an expert on the way Russian oligarchs hide their wealth.
The move against Putin’s daughters may be mostly symbolic, though, since it’s unclear if they have any significant assets outside of Russia.
“This is similar to the sanctions on President Putin himself just a month ago from the U.S. and the European Union as well as other Western countries,” Michel said. “We don’t know of any significant assets tied to these figures — to the daughters or to President Putin himself… The theory behind these sanctions is that his daughters are presumably hiding some of his wealth somewhere.”
Putin has kept his family, like most things about his personal life, masked in secrecy. Although it is known that his two daughters are shared with his ex-wife Lyudmila, they are rarely seen in public. The Kremlin has never confirmed names, ages, where they live, or released any recent photographs.
In 2015, Putin briefly mentioned that his daughters were educated in Russia but dodged other questions surrounding them.
“My daughters live in Russia and studied only in Russia, I am proud of them,” Putin said. “They speak three foreign languages fluently. I never discuss my family with anyone.”
Although Putina and Tikhonova may not be significantly impacted by U.S. sanctions, the administration could be looking to send a message to Putin.
The United States also issued sanctions against Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and members of Russia’s Security Council, including former president and prime minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
Biden on Wednesday drew a parallel between the seemingly lavish lives of Russia’s ultra-rich oligarchs, and the families suffering because of the war in Ukraine.
“These oligarchs and their family members are not allowed to hold on to their wealth in Europe and the United States,” he said, “and keep these yachts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, their luxury vacation homes, while children in Ukraine are being killed, displaced from their homes every single day.”
Senior administration officials say the targets have “enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Some of them are responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine.”
The European Union could be soon to follow, floating the possibility of similar sanctions against Russian oligarch families this week.