US singles out ‘Putin ally’ for more sanctions

The punitive measures also target the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Central Bank assets

Washington has slapped a new batch of sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank, the country’s Direct Investment Fund and its CEO, as well as the Ministry of Finance, over Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

In a press release published on Monday, the US Department of the Treasury announced that it had prohibited American nationals “from engaging in transactions with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.” According to the statement, the move will effectively immobilize these Russian entities’ assets “held in the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located.

On top of that, Washington has targeted the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and its CEO, Kirill Dmitriev, personally, who the US authorities describe as a “known Putin ally” with ties to American consulting and financial services firms, as well as unnamed universities.

According to the statement, the RDIF is a “slush fund for President Vladimir Putin,” and has arguably become “emblematic of Russia’s broader kleptocracy.

Explaining the need for the new restrictions, the Treasury Department claimed that “Putin and his inner circle of cronies have long relied on RDIF and Dmitriev to raise funds abroad.” Along with demonstrating America’s “unwavering commitment to support Ukraine,” Washington expects the new sanctions to “prevent Putin’s regime from raising capital to fund its invasion of Ukraine and other priorities.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stressed that the move was made “in coordination with partners and allies,” apparently referring to the EU’s decision on February 26 to impose sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank.

The Treasury Department said it expected the latest punitive measures to “disrupt Russia’s attempts to prop up its rapidly depreciating currency.

At the same time, however, the US authorities have issued a “general license to authorize certain energy-related transactions with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.

On February 24, Russia announced the beginning of what President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine. Moscow insists it was forced to take decisive steps to protect the Russian-speaking population in the newly-recognized Donbass republics. Ukraine and its Western allies, however, dismiss Moscow’s claims as a mere pretext to justify an “unprovoked” attack.

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