White House announces aggressive sanctions targeting prominent Russian oligarchs over Ukraine invasion

The White House on Thursday announced damaging sanctions against some of Russia’s most prominent oligarchs, broadening its crackdown on the billionaires the White House accuses of enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “War of Choice,” according to a statement released Thursday.

Among those subjected to full-blocking sanctions under the latest wave of sanctions is Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals — a steel and telecom magnate who prior to 2017 had been ranked by Forbes as among the world’s most powerful people. His superyacht and private jet have already been seized, according to the White House.  Also included in that list are Arkady and Boris Rotenburg, brothers who grew up practicing martial arts in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) with Putin, and to whom Putin is alleged to have awarded billions of dollars of contracts. Another notable figure in the full-blocking sanctions list is Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Putin.

“The United States and governments all over the world will work to identify and freeze the assets Russian elites and their family members hold in our respective jurisdictions — their yachts, luxury apartments, money, and other ill-gotten gains,” the White House statement said.

Ukraine featured prominently during US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. “Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met with a[a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people,” he said, adding: “Yes. We, the United States of America, stand with the Ukrainian people.”

In the days since Russia invaded Ukraine, Western powers have acted with surprising cohesion to impose unprecedentedly harsh sanctions, supply military equipment to Ukraine’s beleaguered forces, and close airspace to Russian jets.

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to adopt a resolution demanding an end to Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, and affirming Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of 193 member states, 141 voted in favor of the resolution, 35 abstained, and five — Russia, along with Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria — voted against it. The UN Security Council had convened the UNGA meeting using a special mechanism that had not been used for 40 years given the gravity of the Ukraine situation.

Praising the UNGA resolution, Biden said: “An overwhelming majority of nations around the world condemn Putin’s war. An overwhelming majority of nations recognize that Putin is not only attacking Ukraine, he is attacking the very foundations of global peace and security — and everything the United Nations stands for. And an overwhelming majority of the world recognizes that if we do not stand up to Putin’s Russia, it will only inflict further chaos and aggression on the world. Russia stood isolated, with the support of only four brutal, authoritarian states.”

There had been 752 civilian casualties as of Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council, including 227 killed, 15 of whom were children. “I must emphasize that the real figures will be far higher, since numerous other casualties are pending confirmation, and information from some areas engaged in intense hostilities has been delayed,” she said.