Washington unveils its largest salvo of sanctions against Russia since the start of the war

Joe Biden at the White House, February 23, 2024 (AFP/SAUL LOEB)

Joe Biden announced on Friday the largest salvo of American sanctions since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago, and others are expected to follow. He also called on Congress to release aid to Ukraine.

“History is watching us. The clock is ticking,” declared the American president during a speech at the White House.

“We cannot turn our back now” on Ukraine, he warned, stressing that Vladimir Putin “is counting on that”.

Military aid of 60 billion dollars is in fact blocked in Congress, due to the opposition of Donald Trump, who is using his influence with Republican elected officials to defeat the bill.

Earlier on Friday, the Biden administration unveiled the largest salvo of sanctions imposed since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and also in response to the death of opponent Alexeï Navalny .

And this is “just the beginning,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council: “You can count on more action from the government to hold the Kremlin accountable for Navalny’s death.”

The Treasury and State Department targeted more than 500 individuals and organizations in 11 and 26 countries, respectively (including China and Germany), blocking their assets in the United States and restricting their visa access.

Including three Russian officials, for their involvement in the death of Alexeï Navalny, announced the State Department.

Separately, the Commerce Department added 93 companies to its blacklist.

This brings to more than 4,000 the number of entities targeted by American sanctions since the start of the war.

– Escaping sanctions –

“If Putin does not pay the price for the death and destruction he is spreading, he will continue,” Joe Biden warned earlier in the day.

The objective of these sanctions: to limit the financial resources available to the Russian government to finance the war against Ukraine, launched just two years ago, on February 24, 2022.

Among the long list, technology companies in the semiconductor, optics, drones, and information systems sectors, and even an institute of applied mathematics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, February 22, 2024 in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, February 22, 2024 in Moscow (POOL/AFP/Alexander KAZAKOV)

But also the Russian Mir payment system, the development of which “has enabled Russia to build a financial infrastructure that allows it to escape sanctions and to rebuild broken links with the international financial system”, according to the US Department of the Treasury .

Developed in 2015 in the face of Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Mir cards – a term which means “world” and “peace” in Russian – allow Russians to make payments and withdraw money in some foreign countries.

– “Future of the Russian people” –

Also sanctioned were the Russian national shipping company Sovcomflot and 14 tankers from a Russian “ghost fleet”, used by Moscow to circumvent the cap on the price of its oil, put in place since December 2022 by a coalition of Western countries.

The aim of this mechanism is to force Russia to sell its oil to these countries at a lower price, to “limit the Kremlin’s profits while promoting the stability of energy markets”, according to the deputy secretary of the US Treasury. , Wally Adeyemo, quoted in a press release.

Washington also warned that sanctions will continue to be imposed “on people, wherever they are, who allow Russia to reconnect to global financial markets using illicit channels.”

Ukrainian soldiers at a position near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, February 20, 2024

Ukrainian soldiers at a position near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, February 20, 2024 (AFP/Anatolii STEPANOV)

Because, despite the multitude of Western sanctions, Russia recorded growth of 3.6% in its GDP in 2023, thanks to orders for munitions and arms.

For the American Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, Vladimir Putin “mortgaged the present and the future of the Russian people”, and “the Kremlin chooses to reorient its economy to manufacture weapons to kill its neighbors as quickly as possible, at the expense of the economic future of its own population.

Sanctions and announcements have multiplied within Western countries as the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine approaches.

EU countries thus agreed on a 13th package of sanctions, while the United Kingdom took measures against more than 50 personalities and companies, and announced new deliveries of missiles to the Ukrainians.

French President Emmanuel Macron is organizing a meeting in Paris on Monday in support of Ukraine with several heads of state and government or their ministerial representatives.

© 2024 AFP

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