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EU hands out sanctions to Putin oligarchs, spokesman

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets with Russia’s oil giant Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 12, 2020. AFP

EU hands out sanctions to Putin oligarchs, spokesman

The EU on February 28 added top Kremlin-linked oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman to its sanctions blacklist as part of its latest round of punishment over the military offensive in Ukraine.

The bloc targeted some of the key moneymen accused of backing Putin’s government in response to his ordering Russian forces into Russia’s pro-Western neighbour last week.

Among the high-profile names were close Putin allies Igor Sechin, head of state oil giant Rosneft, and Nikolay Tokarev, boss of pipeline mammoth Transneft.

Three men ranked within Russia’s 10 top richest by Forbes were also added: metals magnate Alexei Mordashov, tycoon Alisher Usmanov, and businessman and Putin friend Gennady Timchenko.

In addition there were also top bankers Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven.

Plus there was Sergei Roldugin, a cellist and long-time Putin confidante accused of “‘shuffling’ at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies as a part of Putin’s hidden financial network”.

“With these additional sanctions, we are targeting all who are having a significant economic role in supporting Putin’s regime, and benefit financially from the system,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“These sanctions will expose the wealth of Putin’s elite. Those who enable the invasion of Ukraine will pay a price for their action.”

Beyond the top businessmen, the EU said it was also targeting key propagandists.

Most prominently these included Putin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov, a central figure in what the West sees as the Kremlin’s disinformation machine.

Also on the list were the ministers for housing, tourism and transport as well as senior military commanders accused of involvement in the Ukraine campaign.

Putin himself and his foreign minister were also recently subjected to asset freezes as the EU batters the Kremlin with sanctions.

More wide-sweeping measures, including prohibiting transactions with Russia’s central bank, have helped send the Russian economy into turmoil.

In a statement released by Mordashov’s metals and mining conglomerate Severstal, the tycoon said he had nothing to do with the politics around Ukraine.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy for two fraternal nations,” he said.

“I have never been close to politics,” he said.

“I have absolutely nothing to do with the emergence of the current geopolitical tension and I do not understand why the EU has imposed sanctions on me.”

In Washington, officials were also planning more sanctions on Russian tycoons.

US Department of State spokesman Ned Price said the US sanctions list would not be identical with those from the EU and Britain, but that they “will ultimately be symmetrical and mutually reinforcing”.

“We are going to identify, we are going to hunt down and freeze the assets of Russian companies and oligarchs. We are going to hunt down their yachts. We are going to hunt down their mansions, any other ill-gotten gains that we can find in freeze under the law,” Price said.

He added that the US would also target “their ability to send their children to boarding schools around the world”.

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