US imposes new sanctions on Russia in response to Navalny death 2 years after Ukraine invasion

President Biden teased the sanctions earlier Thursday, saying that Putin was "responsible" for Navalny's death

BySam Fossum, Priscilla Alvarez and Kevin Liptak, CNN, CNNWire
Friday, February 23, 2024
US imposes new sanctions on Russia for Navalny death, war in Ukraine
The new sanctions mark the latest move by the administration to levy consequences against Russia amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration imposed a fresh slate of sanctions on more than 500 targets on Friday in response to the death of Russian opposition figure and outspoken Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny and Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions on the eve of Russia's two-year war in Ukraine mark the latest move by the administration to levy consequences against Russia amid heightened tensions between the two countries. Friday's announcement is the largest single day tranche of sanctions since Putin began his war against Ukraine two years ago and is part of the administration's ongoing efforts to limit the Kremlin's revenues and hamper Moscow's ability to source materials for its war.

In addition to sanctions imposed by the US Treasury and State Departments, the administration also announced trade restrictions against more than 90 entities through the Department of Commerce.

"These sanctions will target individuals connected to Navalny's imprisonment as well as Russia's financial sector, defense industrial base, procurement networks and sanctions evaders across multiple continents," President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday. "They will ensure Putin pays an even steeper price for his aggression abroad and repression at home."

The sanctions package released Friday doesn't directly sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is already sanctioned, according to a Treasury official.

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The US, along with other Western governments, has levied a series of sanctions against Russia in recent years, but Russia has adapted to them. Putin has taken to gloating about Russia's resistance to international sanctions, which take time to have an effect.

US officials have acknowledged the importance of adjusting Western sanctions to keep up the pressure - from ramping up enforcement of the price cap on Russian oil to targeting companies and financial institutions helping Russia evade sanctions - and remain confident that in the long run the Kremlin's effort to successfully reorient its economy and trade will fail.

Biden teased the sanctions on Thursday, saying that Putin was "responsible" for Navalny's death. The comments came shortly after he met in San Francisco with Navalny's widow and daughter.

Biden has repeatedly condemned Putin and called him "a crazy SOB" in a fundraiser in San Francisco, according to the pool reporters traveling with the US president. The Kremlin, in response, said Biden's comments were a "huge disgrace" for the United States.

Earlier this week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan described the package as "another turn of the crank" after withering Western sanctions on Moscow since the start of the Ukraine war. While those sanctions have hampered Russia's economy, they haven't deterred Putin from proceeding with the invasion.

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNN in a call with reporters Thursday that Friday's package illustrates the United States' increasing focus on sanctioning companies in third-party countries that are providing materials and key supplies for Russia's war effort.

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"We're going after the key nodes in the Russian economy that are purchasing a number of these goods from companies in third countries," he said. "So, our strategy more and more is making it harder for Russia to use the supply chain to build the weapons that they need. And we're gonna be continuing to do that because our goal has to be to use the tools at Treasury and the Commerce Department to put sand in the gears of Russia's military industrialized complex."

"Russia is mortgaging their future in order to pay for the war that they want in their present," Adeyemo said, adding later: "Putin thinks he can outsmart us and outlast us by turning inward, but Russia's wartime transformation allows us to target densely concentrated production in a new and efficient way. With such a vertical integration we can hit the entire supply chain."

In total, the Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned hundreds of entities involved in Russia's military-industrial base, 26 third-country entities facilitating Russian sanctions evasion, and the operator of the Mir National Payment System - which the US government describes as a "major cog" in Russia's financial infrastructure. Some of the third-party entities sanctioned Friday include firms in China, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.

"This solemn anniversary and Aleksey Navalny's death in Russian custody are stark and tragic reminders of Putin's brazen disregard for human life, from Ukrainians suffering the costs of his unprovoked war to people across Russia who dare to expose the corrupt abuses that fuel his regime," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

In addition to Treasury's actions, the US State Department on Friday imposed sanctions against those helping support Russia's energy sector, waging its war against Ukraine, and facilitating sanctions evasion.

US officials had been working on a new sanctions package on Russia ahead of Navalny's death and supplemented them in the wake of the opposition leader's death, according to a senior US official, who added that US officials coordinated with European partners on the new package.

The EU and the United Kingdom are both expected to announce their own sanctions packages ahead of the two year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

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