US sanctions against Russia targets over 500 people and entities

The measures target Mir payment system, financial institutions and its military industrial base

By Reuters

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Joe Biden speaks to the media, following his meeting with Alexei Navalny’s widow and daughter in San Francisco. — Reuters
Joe Biden speaks to the media, following his meeting with Alexei Navalny’s widow and daughter in San Francisco. — Reuters

Published: Fri 23 Feb 2024, 7:02 PM

The United States on Friday issued sweeping sanctions to mark the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, targeting over 500 people and entities as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Moscow.

The measures targeted the Mir payment system, Russian financial institutions and its military industrial base, sanctions evasion, future energy production and other areas. They also included officials involved in the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Treasury and State departments said in statements.

The action seeks to hold Russia to account over the war and the death of Navalny, US President Joe Biden said in a statement, as Washington looks to continue to support Ukraine even as it faces acute shortages of ammunition and US military aid has been delayed for months in Congress.

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"They will ensure Putin pays an even steeper price for his aggression abroad and repression at home," Biden said of the sanctions.

The US Treasury Department targeted nearly 300 people and entities, while the State Department hit over 250 and the Commerce Department added over 90 companies to the Entity List. That was an increase from last year, when the US imposed sanctions on over 200 individuals and entities while Commerce targeted 90 companies for the first anniversary of the war.

Friday's sanctions from the United States came in partnership with those from European Union member nations and Britain. The actions are the latest of thousands of targets announced by the United States and its allies.

Russia's export-focused, $2.2-trillion economy has proven more resilient to the unprecedented sanctions than either Moscow or the West anticipated.

Biden's administration has exhausted money previously approved for Ukraine, and a request for additional funds is languishing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"We must sustain our support for Ukraine even as we weaken Russia’s war machine. It’s critical that Congress steps up to join our allies around the world in giving Ukraine the means to defend itself and its freedom against Putin’s barbarous assault," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement it imposed sanctions on state-owned National Payment Card System, the operator of the Mir payment system.

Mir payments cards have become more important since its US rivals suspended operations in Russia after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, and their payment cards which were issued in the country stopped working abroad.

"The Government of Russia's proliferation of Mir has permitted Russia to build out a financial infrastructure that enables Russian efforts to evade sanctions and reconstitute severed connections to the international financial system," the Treasury statement said.

Also targeted were over a dozen Russian banks, investment firms, venture capital funds, and fintech companies, including SPB Bank, which is owned by SPB Exchange, Russia's second-largest stock exchange which specialises in trading foreign shares.

The United States also targeted Russia's future energy production and exports, taking further aim at Arctic-2 LNG project in Siberia. In November, Washington imposed sanctions on a major entity involved in the development, operation and ownership of the massive project.

On Friday, the State Department targeted Russia's Zvezda shipbuilding company, which it said is involved in the construction of up to 15 highly specialized LNG tankers intended for use in support of Arctic-2 LNG exports.

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told reporters that Treasury plans to level additional sanctions later on Friday over the G7's $60 price cap on Russian oil that he said will increase the costs for Russia to use an aging "shadow fleet" of tankers to get oil to markets mainly in India and China.

The United States also imposed sanctions on entities based in China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and Liechtenstein over the evasion of western sanctions on Russia and backfilling, including for sending items Moscow relies on for its weapons systems.

The action comes as Washington has increasingly sought to crack down on Russia's circumvention of its measures.

The move also targeted a network through which Russia, in cooperation with Iran, has acquired and produced drones.

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