Updated Feb 26, 2022 - World

U.S. joins EU and U.K. in sanctioning Putin directly

Photo of Vladimir Putin sitting with his hands folded in front of him as he leans forward toward a mic
Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS via Getty Images

The U.S. imposed sanctions Friday on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other members of Russia’s Security Council.

Why it matters: It is extremely rare for the U.S. to sanction a sitting world leader, and the Kremlin had previously said it would consider sanctions on Putin himself to be a de facto severing of relations between the U.S. and Russia.

  • The move reflects Moscow's new pariah status but is mostly symbolic, as it's unclear what assets Putin and Lavrov actually hold in the West after years of escalating sanctions against Russia.
  • Putin in particular is believed to rely on his inner circle of Russian oligarchs to stash his vast wealth abroad.

Driving the news: The sanctions prohibit Putin and Lavrov from traveling to the U.S. and also target Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.

  • "It is exceedingly rare for Treasury to designate a head of state; President Putin joins a very small group that includes despots such as Kim Jong Un, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Bashar al-Assad," Treasury said in announcing the sanctions.

The European Union and United Kingdom announced earlier in the day that they would sanction Putin and Lavrov and freeze their assets, though the EU did not impose visa restrictions.

  • "In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team. I expect we'll have more specific details out later this afternoon," Psaki said.

The big picture: In coordination with the G7, the U.S. on Thursday imposed severe new sanctions that include sweeping export controls and a freeze on billions of dollars' worth of Russian assets.

  • The sanctions are designed to "maximize a long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our allies," Biden said Thursday.
  • One of the harshest sanctions options still under consideration is disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT global financial system, which Ukrainian officials have demanded.
  • The EU is discussing the proposal and expects to finalize its decision in the next day or two.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details on the sanctions announced by the Treasury Department.

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