New sanctions target Putin's inner circle and Russia's elite

Members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle are among the targets of sanctions imposed against Moscow by the United States and the European Union in response to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

According to the New York Times, the list of prominent Russian officials targeted by the European Union’s sanctions includes Sergei K. Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister; Anton Vaino, Putin’s chief of staff; Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with close ties to Putin; Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s communications director; and Margarita Simonyan, head of state television network RT.

Those individuals will be barred from traveling to the European Union and their assets will be frozen, EU officials said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in Moscow on Feb. 18. (Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via Reuters) (Sputnik Photo Agency / reuters)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, foreign policy chief of the EU, tweeted that the sanctions were merely a “first step” toward punishing Russian elites:

No more:

Shopping in #Milano

Partying in #SaintTropez

Diamonds in #Antwerp

This is a first step. #WeStandUnited

The tweet was later deleted.

Related: Why Americans should care about the Russia-Ukraine conflict >>>

The U.S. sanctions announced by President Biden on Tuesday target family members of some leading Kremlin officials, including Denis Bortnikov, a Russian businessman and the son of Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor to the Cold War-era KGB.

Other Russians targeted by sanctions include Petr Mikhailovich Fradkov, the son of former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov, and Vladimir Kiriyenko, son of Sergei Vladilenovich Kiriyenko, Putin’s deputy chief of staff and “domestic policy curator,” according to the Treasury Department.

“They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well,” Biden said while unveiling what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against the Kremlin.

Deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh.
Deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh at a White House news briefing about sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) (Kevin Lamarque / reuters)

While these steps are not as substantial as the U.S. sanctions against two of Russia’s most prominent banks, Biden administration officials say that targeting the family members of Putin’s inner circle could help thwart attempts by Russian officials to shield their wealth by giving it to family members.

“Russian elites and their family members are now on notice,” Daleep Singh, Biden’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters later Tuesday.

The initial response from Moscow was, at least publicly, a shrug.

“It is hard to imagine that there is a person in Washington who expects Russia to revise its foreign policy under a threat of restrictions,” Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

“I don’t remember a single day when our country lived without any restrictions from the Western world. We learned how to work in such conditions. And not only to survive, but also to develop our state.”

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