By AP, published by ABC News, and BBC
Brussels -The United States today (Apr. 6) announced sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and said it was toughening penalties against Russian banks in retaliation for “war crimes” in Ukraine.
The United Kingdom has also imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank and is also committed to ending all imports of Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022.
UK’s move came as the European Union were set to take additional steps, including a ban on new investment in Russian and an EU embargo on coal, after the recent evidence of atrocities that has emerged in the wake of the retreat by Russian forces from areas around Kyiv, including the town of Bucha.
The US acted against two of Russia’s largest banks, Sberbank and Alfa Bank, prohibiting assets from going through the US financial system and barring Americans from doing business with those two institutions.
In addition to sanctions aimed at Putin’s adult daughters, Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the US is targeting Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the wife and children of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and members of Russia’s Security Council, including Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minister.
The penalties cut all of Putin’s close family members off from the US financial system and freeze any assets they hold in the United States.
President Joe Biden called the latest round of sanctions “devastating.”
“I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha,” Biden said in a tweet.
Biden was expected to sign an executive order that would ban new investment in Russia by Americans no matter where they are living. The US Treasury Department is preparing more sanctions against major Russian state-owned enterprises, according to the White House.
Videos and images of bodies in the streets of Bucha after it was recaptured from Russian forces have unleashed a wave of indignation among Western allies, who have drawn up new sanctions as a response.
The European Commission’s proposed ban on coal imports would be the first EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said energy was key to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war coffers.
“A billion euro is what we pay Putin every day for the energy he provides us since the beginning of the war. We have given him 35 billion euro. Compare that to the one billion that we have given to Ukraine in arms and weapons,” Borrell said.
After several European countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats, the European Commission proposed a fifth package of sanctions including a ban on coal imports that could be adopted as soon as Wednesday once unanimously approved by the 27-nation bloc’s ambassadors.
Separately, the Treasury Department moved on Tuesday to block any Russian government debt payments with US dollars from accounts at US financial institutions, making it harder for Russia to meet its financial obligations.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the coal ban is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year and that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
She didn’t mention natural gas, with consensus among the 27 EU countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes difficult to secure amid opposition from gas-dependent members like Germany, the bloc’s largest economy.
But European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc should keep up the pressure on the Kremlin, suggesting that an embargo on gas imports should also be required at some point in the future.
“The new package includes a ban on coal imports,” Michel said on Wednesday. “I think that measures on oil, and even gas, will also be needed, sooner or later.”
‘Evacuate eastern regions while there’s still time’
Iryna Vereshchuk said that military leaders in the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions were asking local people to try to leave and that they were doing all they could to make this happen “in an organised way”.
If people did not leave, she said, they would soon find themselves under fire and under threat of death.
“There is nothing that they can do against this, and we won’t be able to help them,” she added.
Russia has said it is refocusing its military operations on the Donbas, comprising both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, is close to the Russian border and has been targeted by Russian forces since the beginning of the war.
Red Cross meets convoy of people fleeing Mariupol
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine says it has met a convoy of private vehicles which had made its own way out of Mariupol and then accompanied the 500 people travelling from the besieged southern city to safety in Zaporizhzhya.
The organisation has not been able to reach Mariupol itself.
Top: People clean debris next to a destroyed house in Boromlia village, Ukraine, on March 30, 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE and published by The Straits Times
First insert: One of Putin’s daughters, Katerina Tikhonova, appeared at an international dance competition. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Second insert: Customers of Russia’s Sberbank queue outside a branch in Prague to withdraw their money. Photo Getty Images and published by BBC
Third insert: A child on a train at Kramatorsk central station as families flee the city in the Donbas region. Photo: Getty Images and published by BBC
Fourth insert: The ICRC provided this image of the convoy en route to Mariupol. Photo ICRC and published by BBC
Home Page: Large numbers of people are already trying to leave the Donbas. Photo: Getty Images and published by BBC