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US and UK say they're preparing sanctions on Russians with links to Putin government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the nation from The Kremlin (File photo)

The United States and the United Kingdom say they are preparing sanctions on Russians with links to the government of President Vladimir Putin to stop what they call Moscow's plan to invade Ukraine. Moscow has rejected the allegation. 

A senior Biden administration official said Monday they have identified Russians who are “in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin and play a role in government decision making or are at a minimum complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilizing behavior.”

The Biden administration says it will block the assets of these individuals and members of their families if Russia launches an invasion against Ukraine.

The Biden official however did not name the people who could be sanctioned but said the list is “broad” and draws in part from a confidential report the US Treasury Department submitted to Congress in 2018, under the Trump administration, as required by a 2017 sanctions law.

That report provided names of some senior Russian government officials, political leaders, and oligarchs.  

UK vows to punish Putin's friends

The United Kingdom said on Monday it was also prepared to punish Russian elites close to Putin with asset freezes and travel bans if Russia sends troops into Ukraine.

Britain urged Putin to "step back from the brink" after accusing Russia of the buildup of troops near Ukraine and warned any incursion would trigger sanctions against companies and people close to the Kremlin, according to Reuters.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said planned legislation will give London new powers to target companies linked to the Russian state.

British threat 'very disturbing'

Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the British threat as "very disturbing," adding it would hurt British companies.

"An attack by a given country on Russian business implies retaliatory measures, and these measures will be formulated based on our interests if necessary," Peskov said.

The senior Biden administration official said the sanctions would be imposed under an executive order that Biden signed in April.

“Many of these individuals are particularly vulnerable targets because of their deepened financial ties with the west,” the official said. “Sanctions would cut them off from the international financial system and ensure that they and their family members will no longer able to enjoy the perks of parking their money in the west and attending elite western universities.”

On Sunday, the leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they were close to approving the most unprecedented severe sanctions against Russia to stop the invasion.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's Democratic chairman, said that in the event of such an alleged offensive, the lawmakers would want Russia to face “the mother of all sanctions.”

“Putin will not stop if he believes the West will not respond,” Menendez said.

The sanctions include actions against Russian banks that could severely undermine the Russian economy and increased lethal aid to Ukraine’s military, the Associated Press reported, citing the American senator.

A New York Times report has warned that the sanctions that Americans are mulling against Russia over the Ukraine crisis could lead to high inflation and other forms of the economic recession that would affect not only Russia but the entire global financial system.

The “swift and severe” response that the US officials have warned in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “could roil major economies, particularly those in Europe, and even threaten the stability of the global financial system,” the Times reported on Sunday, citing analysts.

The latest announcement of sanctions from the Biden administration comes in an environment of massively heightened tensions, an intensive US anti-Russian propaganda campaign, and deployment of forces and equipment throughout most of the former Warsaw Pact nations and three former Soviet republics that have joined NATO, with at least two others (Georgia and Ukraine) not yet admitted as formal members but who are involved in military cooperation, including hosting military assets, with the US and NATO.

There have also been reciprocal dismissals and departures of senior diplomatic personnel and, most recently, an immediate threat of termination of diplomatic relations.

The United States claims that Russia has been deploying thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine to attack the country. Moscow has rejected the allegations and said the military build-up is defensive.

Biden: US and allies 'prepare for every scenario'

“The United States and our Allies and partners continue to prepare for every scenario,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday as the meeting got underway. 

“The world must be clear-eyed about the actions Russia is threatening and ready to respond to the risks those actions present to all of us.”

Russia’s envoy to the United Nations has said the United States is trying to "whip up hysteria" by pushing for a UN Security Council meeting on the Ukrainian crisis as Washington is seeking to mislead the world community about the real state of things around Ukraine.

Vasily Nebenzya said the UN debate session, which was held on Monday, was an attempt by the US to mislead the international community about Ukraine and the current outburst of global tensions, and that the initiative was an example of “megaphone diplomacy.” 

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