The United States has imposed “toughest” sanctions on Sberbank and Alpha-Bank

The United States has imposed tougher sanctions on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and Alpha-Bank, the country’s largest private bank, by increasing Moscow’s economic sanctions in response to the atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

The announcement of a “complete embargo” on Wednesday, which barred lenders from transacting with any U.S. entity or individual, came after top U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, warned this week that they were planning to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.

A senior U.S. official said the latest measures came in response to “ill-fated brutality” in Bucharest, a town near the capital Kiev where horrific images of the bodies of Ukrainian civilians have surfaced in recent days, indicating possible genocide by Russian troops.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian Security Council members, including Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Ekaterina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, the wife and daughter of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and former President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

In addition, the United States has said it will ban any new investment in Russia by the United States and will issue a new blocking ban on large Russian state-owned enterprises on Thursday.

The new restrictions on Sberbank and Alfa mean that the two Russian lenders will no longer be able to transact in any currency with any US institution or individual. Immediately after the attack, the United States banned any loan or equity transactions with Alpha and Subarbank, but it is now imposing a “complete blocking ban,” which includes many stricter bans.

“This is the toughest step we can take in terms of finances,” the U.S. official said. “And in reality, the history of sanctions is when we impose a complete blockade [a] Financial institutions, the rest of the world, and even other powers that have not yet imposed a full blockade, respect the regime. So there has to be a multiplier effect. “

The official added that the United States and the EU chose to target Putin’s daughters because they believed they were helping to protect the Russian president’s assets.

“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden from family members and that is why we are targeting them,” he added.

The UK government on Wednesday announced additional sanctions against Putin’s government, including the seizure of assets against Sberbank.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says the measures, identified as “the toughest sanctions yet”, include a direct ban on new foreign investment in Russia, as well as a ban on imports of Russian iron and steel products.

The UK has imposed sanctions on Gazprombank chief executive Andrei Akimov and eight other people involved in the main Russian industry, including Leonid Mikhelson, founder and chief executive of Novatek.

The United States and its European allies had hoped that the initial burst of sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s aggression in late February would be enough to financially isolate Russia, including blocking Moscow’s access to its foreign reserves by banning transactions with the central bank. The rest of the world economy without too much spillover.

But they have been forced to consider additional targets as the conflict escalates, with third-country companies and individuals expanding their nets to continue doing business with Russian companies and sharpening their existing sanctions.

Former State Department spokesman Edward Fishman, who led the sanctions in Russia and Europe, called Wednesday’s move “the most significant.” [Russian] The central bank’s sanctions “were imposed in late February.

Referring to the decades-long crackdown on Tehran that began in 1979, he added, “We are moving towards an Iran-style embargo.” “It’s a conveyor belt and it only takes one side.”

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