As The Ukraine Conflict Drags On, Biden Plans To Sanction More Russian Oligarchs, According To The White House

President Joe Biden will announce new sanctions against several Russian oligarchs and their families on Thursday, as pressure mounted on Congress for a tougher response to Moscow a week after it invaded Ukraine, including a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

In recent days, as live television coverage of Russia’s unjustified attack and social media posts from Ukraine have electrified the West, the US and Europe have accelerated their shipments of weaponry and defence material to Ukraine, despite their unwillingness to engage Russia’s military directly. Meanwhile, both the US and European leaders are increasing economic pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle in an attempt to put a halt to his ruthless assault on Ukraine.

“We want [Putin] to feel the squeeze, we want the people around him to feel the squeeze,” Psaki said. “Making them a priority and a focus of our individual sanctions is something the President has been focused on.”

The US limitations will prevent individuals sanctioned from flying to the US; and by targeting the elites’ family members, the administration hopes to prevent them from simply transferring assets to wives or children, a loophole frequently used to escape penalties in similar instances.

The latest move coincided with further warnings from Putin that he has no intention of calling a halt to the war until he has seized control of the entire country. It was also the latest attempt by the United States to get him to rethink his plan through a crippling economic pressure campaign.

The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday the formation of a team to enforce sanctions and export restrictions, as well as seize luxury assets owned by Russia’s wealthiest residents.

To minimise the impact on global energy markets and consumers, the administration and its European allies have avoided penalising Russia’s energy sector so far. The government hopes that by putting financial pressure on Russian billionaires and millionaires, they will be able to persuade those oligarchs to distance themselves from Putin and press him to find a diplomatic way to stop the war in Ukraine.

However, the economic and geopolitical consequences of the swift global response to Moscow — the Ruble has plummeted, Russian planes have been barred from European and American airspace, and long-non-aligned countries like Finland and Sweden have expressed renewed interest in joining NATO — have so far failed to deter Putin. Following Putin’s 90-minute phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, an Élysée official concluded that Putin was hell-bent on conquering Ukraine at any cost, declaring simply that “the worst is yet to come.”

As the bombardment of Ukraine’s biggest cities continues a week after Putin launched the invasion, political pressure in Washington to restrict Russia’s oil and gas industry continues to mount.

Republicans warn that targeting Russia’s energy exports will hurt the country considerably more severely than any actions the US has taken.

“Their Achilles heel is that their economy depends on oil and gas revenue. Never in the history of warfare have we had a chance to deliver such a decisive blow without firing a shot,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “If the Ukrainians can stand up to a tank, if a grandmother can get a rifle, surely to God we can produce more oil and gas.”

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Several Republicans, as well as Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have introduced legislation to prohibit oil imports into the United States.

Despite the fact that Europe is significantly more reliant on Russian energy resources, according to Sen. Dan Sullivan, the US buys about 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Russia (R-Alaska).

“That’s $17 billion that we are putting into Putin’s war chest,” he said. “This is national security suicide.”

The administration has so far refrained from imposing oil and gas penalties. Despite the fact that the move is likely to cause difficulty for regular Russians, it has the potential to galvanise them behind their leader. Simultaneously, such actions are expected to raise oil prices on the global market, perhaps provoking severe economic and political backlash at home.

“The President’s objective has been to maximize impact on President Putin and Russia while minimizing impact to us and our allies and partners,” Psaki said Thursday. “We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy.”

Many Democrats are opposed to the concept, in part because it would necessitate an increase in domestic production to compensate, but top House Democrats are on favour.
“That’s something I’m all for. It must be prohibited “Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, remarked (D-San Francisco). The same position was echoed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

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