EU to Freeze Putin’s Assets Over Ukraine Aggression

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
February 25, 2022Russia–Ukraine War
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EU to Freeze Putin’s Assets Over Ukraine Aggression
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Moscow on Feb. 24, 2022. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The European Union has adopted a fresh round of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including freezing the overseas assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a top European official said.

Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkevics, confirmed in a statement that the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council had adopted a second package of sanctions and that among them is an asset freeze targeting Lavrov and Putin.

Inclusion of the two top Kremlin officials in the sanctions was separately confirmed by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, according to Russian news agency Tass.

While neither Baerbock nor Rinkevics provided more details on the asset freeze, Bloomberg cited two senior EU officials as saying that the measures targeting Putin and Lavrov would not impact the duo’s ability to travel so as to keep the door open to diplomacy, at least symbolically.

Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart following their meeting in Moscow on Oct. 6, 2021. (Kirill KudryavtsevI/POOL via Getty Images)

The Latvian foreign minister also said that EU officials were readying a third package of sanctions against Russia, whose military forces streamed across Ukraine’s borders on Thursday in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

As Russian tanks rolled deep into Ukraine on Thursday, EU leaders in Brussels raced to approve what the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described as “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented.”

Those sanctions include freezing Russian assets in the EU, cutting Russian banks’ access to European financial markets, and stifling the country’s trade and manufacturing with export controls.

In a statement agreed at the summit, EU leaders said the new round of sanctions “will impose massive and severe consequences on Russia for its action,” accusing Russia of an “unprovoked and unjustified military aggression” against Ukraine.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Europe to act fast and forcefully in hitting Moscow with sanctions.

“You still can stop this aggression. You have to act swiftly,” he said, adding that banning Russians from entering the EU, an oil embargo, and cutting Moscow off from the SWIFT global interbank payments system should all be on the table.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with his counterparts from Lithuania and Poland following their talks in Kyiv on Feb. 23, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

A SWIFT ban would make it harder for Russian companies to get paid for goods they export to other countries. They would also find it more difficult to invest overseas or borrow from foreign lenders.

But removing Russia from SWIFT would also make it harder for foreign buyers of Russian oil and gas to settle transactions, potentially driving energy prices higher.

Western leaders are divided over excluding Russia from SWIFT, with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire saying on Friday that the move was possible, but only as a “financial nuclear weapon” of last resort.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that the United States and its international allies have decided not to eject Russia from SWIFT, at least for now, with the measure remaining as a nuclear option in case the Ukraine situation escalates.

Asked by reporters during a White House press conference whether personally sanctioning Putin was being considered, Biden said yes.

“It’s not a bluff, it’s on the table,” Biden said.

Financier and activist Bill Browder, who lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, a measure to punish Russian human rights violators, told The Independent that removing Russia from SWIFT would be “the one thing that would really change Putin’s calculus.”

Browder on Friday reacted to news that Putin and Lavrov had been hit with an EU asset freeze.

“Unexpected news coming from the EU, but very welcome,” he wrote on Twitter.

From The Epoch Times

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