Biden is planning to announce new sanctions that personally target Putin

Biden is planning to announce new sanctions that personally target Putin

US President Joe Biden is planning to announce as soon as Friday that the US will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNN reported, a significant move of condemnation against one of the world’s most powerful leaders.

The move would come after the US, in coordination with its partners and allies, slapped two rounds of sanctions on Russia following its military assault on Ukraine earlier this week. Biden’s reported decision to sanction Putin personally is a rare step and follows the European Union and the UK announcing sanctions against the Russian leader.

The US’s initial two rounds of sanctions targeted key Russian oligarchs, banks, and financial institutions, and western countries also placed limits on their exports of high-tech goods to Russia including semiconductors and aerospace products.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said earlier Friday that the UK will “imminently” introduce sanctions personally targeting Putin and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Both the EU and the UK also moved to freeze Putin’s foreign-held assets, but The Guardian reported that it was a largely symbolic move given that Putin is unlikely to have a significant amount of wealth abroad.

The White House, for its part, has been in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky throughout Russia’s brutal invasion. And Biden spoke with the Ukrainian leader on Friday as his country strains to fend off Russia’s attacks.

The conversation came after Zelensky gave a video address in Kyiv early Friday morning, local time, in which he lambasted “the world’s most powerful forces” for “watching from afar.”

Following their conversation, a tweet posted to Zelensky’s official Twitter account hinted at a stronger US response.

“Strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition have just been discussed with @POTUS.” the tweet said. “Grateful to [US] for the strong support to [Ukraine]!”

Ukraine braced for Russia’s invasion after Putin earlier this week signed a decree recognizing the independence of two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in Ukraine, a move that US officials warned would be used to create a false pretext for Russia to invade.

Two days later, Putin did just that, announcing what he characterized as a “special military operation” in Ukraine. In the days since, cities across Ukraine have been inundated with air raids, missile attacks, and shelling, while Russian ground forces try to surge into the capital of Kyiv.

As Russian forces made their way toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian government called on all citizens and “patriots” to take up arms in defense of the country, saying that only an ID was required and adding, “We give weapons to all patriots!”

“We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country,” Zelensky said in a tweet. “Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”

Russia in January warned that it would cut off ties with the US if Putin was sanctioned. “The imposition of sanctions against the head of state and against the head of Russia, I repeat once again, is an outrageous measure that is comparable to a break in relations,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said at the time. 

But lawmakers in Washington said that directly targeting Putin would send an important message to the world in terms of the gravity of the Russian leader’s actions.  

“If Russia engaged in a conventional invasion of Ukraine, it shatters post World War II norms. This would be virtually unprecedented in the post-World War II world. And it needs to be treated as a serious, significant, and world-shattering breach of international norms,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Insider in January. “We need to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the relationship between the United States and Russia will be fundamentally different, and that his relationship with the rest of the world will be fundamentally different.”

On Thursday, Biden said Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had induced a “complete rupture” in US-Russia relations. “Putin will be a pariah on the international stage,” Biden said.

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