The United States and its Western allies said Wednesday they have imposed “new severe and immediate economic sanctions” against Russia, banning American investment there and targeting assets held by President Vladimir Putin’s adult children.
“Together with our allies and our partners, we're going to keep raising economic costs, to ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increase Russia's economic isolation,” said President Joe Biden Wednesday during remarks at a North America’s Building Trades Unions event.
The White House said it was imposing the new measures as retribution for alleged atrocities against Ukrainian civilians committed by Russian troops, including those discovered in recent days in Bucha, a suburb of the capital city Kyiv, after the Russian military withdrew from the region while heightening its attacks on cities in southern and eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied killing civilians in Bucha.
The U.S. said it will “impose full blocking sanctions” on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and the country’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank.
The White House said it is also sanctioning “critical major Russian state-owned enterprises,” Putin’s adult children, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and members of Russia’s Security Council.
The U.S. said it will block Russia from making debt payments with money subject to U.S. jurisdiction and follows action earlier this week to cut off Russia’s frozen funds in the United States to make debt payments.
In his remarks, Biden said that the steps already taken to punish Russia are predicted to shrink the country’s gross domestic product by double digits this year alone and wipe out the last 15 years of Russia’s economic gains.
“Because we’ve cut Russia off from importing technologies, like semiconductors and encryption, security and critical components of quantum technology that they need to complete in the 21st century, we’re going to stifle Russia’s ability in its economy to grow for years to come,” he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is assisting Ukrainian and European partners as well as the State Department to collect evidence of the alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
Federal criminal prosecutors met with prosecutors from Eurojust and Europol on Monday "to work out a plan for gathering evidence" and on Tuesday the top Justice Department prosecutor in Paris met with French prosecutors, Garland said at a news conference. He also announced the indictment of a Russian oligarch.
The actions by the U.S., G-7 countries and the European Union came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed for more resolute action against Russia. NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss additional responses to the February 24 Russian invasion.
"When we are hearing new rhetoric about sanctions... I can't tolerate any indecisiveness after everything that Russian troops have done," Zelenskyy told Ireland’s parliament in a video address.
He reiterated his criticism of European leaders that he says are more concerned with how potential bans on Russian energy imports will affect their economies than the welfare of the Ukrainian people.
In advance of the sanctions announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. was coordinating with the G-7 and European Union on measures that would send Russia “further down the road of economic, financial and technological isolation.”
European Council President Charles Michel said Wednesday that a new EU package would include a ban on coal imports.
“And I think that measures on oil, and even gas, will also be needed sooner or later,” he said.
In an address to the European Parliament, Michel also called on Russian soldiers to “drop your weapons, stop fighting, leave the battlefield.” He said the idea of granting asylum to Russian soldiers who desert is “a valuable idea that should be pursued.”
Ahead of the start of the two-day NATO talks in Brussels, the United States announced $100 million in military aid for Ukraine.
“The world has been shocked and appalled by the atrocities committed by Russia’s forces in Bucha and across Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement late Tuesday announcing his authorization of the aid. “Ukraine’s forces bravely continue to defend their country and their freedom, and the United States, along with our Allies and partners, stand steadfast in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the assistance would “meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine and they have been using so effectively to defend their country.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that alliance members “are determined to provide further support to Ukraine,” including humanitarian and financial aid in addition to military equipment and cybersecurity assistance.
“I expect we will also decide to do more for NATO’s other partners, which are vulnerable to Russian threats and interference, including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Stoltenberg said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is scheduled to address the ministerial on Thursday.
Britain’s defense ministry said Wednesday there was heavy fighting in the city of Mariupol in addition to Russian airstrikes on the encircled city where the humanitarian situation is “worsening.”
“Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat, or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender,” the ministry said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine would try to help trapped civilians escape through 11 different humanitarian corridors Wednesday, but that those in Mariupol would have to do so in their own vehicles.
Zelenskyy admonished the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for its inaction in stopping Russia and called for Moscow to face accountability for crimes it has carried out there.
He spoke just days after Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, where residents and local officials reported more than 300 civilians had been killed by Russian troops during the town’s occupation. Moscow has denied any involvement and blamed Ukrainian “radicals.”
VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Masood Farivar contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.