US, EU pile new sanctions on Russia for Ukraine war, Navalny’s death

The United States and European Union heaped hundreds of new sanctions on Russia because of the second anniversary of the Ukraine war and the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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World News

February 23, 2024 - 4:03 PM

A flower and a picture are left as a tribute to Russian politician Alexei Navalny, near to the Russian Embassy in London, Feb. 18. The U.S. government is hitting Russia with the largest tranche of financial penalties imposed on Moscow since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Photo by AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and European Union on Friday heaped hundreds of new sanctions on Russia in connection with the second anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine and in retaliation for the death of noted Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last week in an Arctic penal colony.

The U.S. government imposed roughly 600 new sanctions on Russia and its war machine in the largest single round of penalties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The EU, for its part, added sanctions on several foreign companies over allegations that they have exported dual-use goods to Russia that could be used in its war against Ukraine. The 27-nation bloc also targeted scores of Russian officials, including members of the judiciary, local politicians and people it said were “responsible for the illegal deportation and military re-education of Ukrainian children.”

President Joe Biden said the sanctions come in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of conquest” and to Navalny’s death, adding that “we in the United States are going to continue to ensure that Putin pays a price for his aggression abroad and repression at home.”

But while previous sanctions have increased costs for Russia’s ability to fight in Ukraine, they appear to have done little so far to deter Putin and it was unclear that the latest big round would significantly alter that.

In specific response to Navalny’s death, the State Department targeted three Russian officials the U.S. says are connected to his death, including the deputy director of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, who was promoted by Putin to the rank of colonel general on Monday, three days after Navalny died.

The sanctions bar the officials from traveling to the U.S. and block access to U.S.-owned property. But they appear largely symbolic given that the officials are unlikely to travel to or have assets or family in the West.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said to “expect more” action later related to Navalny’s death, adding that “today this just a start.”

The Biden administration is levying additional sanctions as House Republicans are blocking billions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine. The war is becoming entangled in U.S. election-year politics, with former President Donald Trump voicing skepticism about the benefits of the NATO alliance and saying that he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to countries that, in his view, are not pulling their weight in the alliance.

Biden on Friday called on Congress to pass Ukraine aide, which has stalled since House Speaker Mike Johnson blocked votes on aid passed by the Senate for Ukraine and other countries.

“Russia is taking Ukraine territory for the first time in many months,” Biden said. “But here in America, the Speaker gave the House a two week vacation. They have to come back and get this done, because failure to support Ukraine in this critical moment will never be forgotten in history.”

Many of the new U.S. sanctions announced Friday target Russian firms that contribute to the Kremlin’s war effort — like drone and industrial chemical manufacturers and machine tool importers — as well as financial institutions, such as the state-owned operator of Russia’s Mir National Payment System.

The U.S. also will impose visa restrictions on Russian authorities it says are involved in the kidnapping and confinement of Ukrainian children. In addition, 26 third-country people and firms from across China, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates, and Liechtenstein are listed for sanctions, for assisting Russia in evading existing financial penalties.

The Russian foreign ministry called the EU sanctions “illegal” and said they undermine “the international legal prerogatives of the UN Security Council.” In response, the ministry is banning some EU citizens from entering the country because they have provided military assistance to Ukraine. It did not immediately address the U.S. sanctions.

Overall, since the start of the war, the U.S. Treasury and State departments have targeted more than 4,000 officials, oligarchs, firms, banks and others under Russia-related sanctions authorities. The EU asset freezes and travel bans constitute its 13th package of measures imposed by the bloc against people and organizations it suspects of undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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