EU puts top Russian oligarchs on sanctions blacklist for ‘supporting Putin regime’

Bloc targets Russian leader’s moneymen, and some of the country’s wealthiest people, in latest punishment over invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian oligarch Igor Sechin visit the Konevsky Monastery north of St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2021. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian oligarch Igor Sechin visit the Konevsky Monastery north of St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2021. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The European Union on Monday added top Kremlin-linked oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman to its sanctions blacklist as part of its punishment for the Ukraine invasion.

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

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

Three men ranked in 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,” Borrell said.

Beyond the top businessmen, the EU said it was also targeting key propagandists, including Putin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov, a central figure in what the West sees as the Kremlin’s disinformation machine.

Also on the list were Russia’s 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 had their assets frozen since the start of the invasion.

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

Fridman, a Jewish, Ukrainian-born financier, spoke out against the war on Sunday.

He told employees at his private equity firm LetterOne that “war can never be the answer,” and called for the “bloodshed,” becoming the first oligarch to publicly oppose the war.

Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, on September 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

The Kremlin-linked metals magnate, Mordashov, sought to distance himself from the war.

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.”

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

US State Department 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 United States would also target “their ability to send their children to boarding schools around the world.”

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