US slaps additional sanctions against Russia

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has imposed additional sanctions on Moscow targeting two of its biggest banks along with Russian Oligarchs and warned more economic actions could follow.

Among the targeted banks were five major Russian banks, including state-backed Sberbank and VTB.

The U.S. Treasury Department said U.S. banks must sever banking ties with Russia’s largest lenders and its subsidiaries within 30 days.

So far, the US has held back wielding its most powerful sanctioning tool against the bank which is adding them to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list which would freeze their U.S. assets, if any.

A senior U.S. administration official has warned, Washington could further tighten sanctions against Russia if it escalates its aggression against Ukraine.

“We still have all options on the table. We have room to further escalate as Russia’s aggression escalates,” said the official.

Sberbank said it was operating normally but was studying the implications of sanctions imposed against it.

Daniel Alter, a former general counsel at New York’s Department of Financial Services, said, “The power of the sanction comes from the fact that most of the world trade at some point is conducted in dollars.”

Every day Russian banks conduct about $46 billion worth of foreign exchange transactions globally, 80% of which are in U.S. dollars, said the Treasury while adding “the vast majority of those transactions will now be disrupted.”

However the US Treasury has authorized certain transactions related to energy.

The Treasury has also imposed sanctions on what it called “Russian elites.”

These included Alexander Vedyakhin, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank; Andrey Puchkov and Yuriy Soloviev, high-ranking VTB Bank executives; and Igor Sechin, chief executive officer of oil giant Rosneft and a former deputy prime minister, and his son, deputy head of a department at Rosneft.

“The sanctions and license package has been constructed to account for the challenges high energy prices pose to average citizens” and does not bar energy-related transactions involving certain banks until June 24, said the US Treasury.

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