BRUSSELS (AP) — The Biden administration announced Friday that it will move to freeze the assets of President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, following the European Union and Britain in directly sanctioning top Russian leadership.
The Treasury Department announced the sanctions shortly after the EU said it had also approved an asset freeze against Putin and Lavrov as part of a broader package of sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told NATO leaders during a call Friday that Britain would move to impose sanctions against Putin and Lavrov.
It wasn’t immediately clear how impactful an asset freeze would be on Putin or Lavrov, but the direct action targeting the Russian president was meant to be seen as a warning to Putin that he could emerge as an international pariah if he doesn’t end the invasion of Ukraine.
The EU’s unanimous decision, part of a broader sanctions package, indicated that Western powers are moving toward unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal invasion of Russia’s neighbor and from unleashing a major war in Europe. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told NATO leaders during a call Friday that Britain would move to impose sanctions against Putin and Lavrov.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the move would be “a unique step in history toward a nuclear power, a country that has a permanent seat on the Security Council, but also shows … how united we are.” It was unclear what the practical impact on the two men would be and how important their assets in the EU were.
“I can assure you that if you got major assets and all of a sudden you can’t get hold of them, it will cost you,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. He did not provide details.
An equally big move would be to ban Putin and Lavrov from EU travel. But overnight, EU leaders made it clear that would be off the table for now, if only since it might complicate diplomatic moves once all sides get around the negotiating table.
EU ministers have said that even further sanctions were still possible, including booting Russia out of SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.
“The debate about SWIFT is not off the table, it will continue,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.