Gruesome reports of civilian murders in the Ukrainian town of Bucha amid Russia‘s ongoing attacks on Ukraine have prompted U.S. and European officials to target Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s daughters in the latest round of economic sanctions.
The pressure campaign comes on top of a series of sets of economic sanctions that U.S. officials say have knocked back years of growth in the Russian economy – with the hope that the consequences will force Putin to change course.
This time, U.S. and European Union officials are eyeing Putin’s two daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova.
They are the children of Putin and his first wife, Lyudmila Putina, a former Aeroflat flight attendant. The Kremlin announced she and Putin were divorcing in 2013.
‘We have we have reason to believe that many of his cronies and the oligarchs hide their wealth – hide their assets with family members that place their assets and their wealth in the US financial system,’ a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday. ‘We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members and that’s why we’re targeting them.’
The administration announced the rollout of sanctions this morning. The move follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chilling speech to the UN Security Council about killings of Ukrainian civilians who have been found in the street, shot with their arms bound behind their backs.
Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University, daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. and European sanctions are expected to go after Putin family members
Officials are already seeking to get at Putin by sanctioning oligarchs, and seizing trophy properties – including the seizure days ago of Tango, a 254-foot luxury yacht owned by oligarch and Putin friend Viktor Vekselberg.
The U.S. also imposing full blocking sanctions on Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. The senior administration official called it the ‘main artery in the Russian financial system,’ handling lending for about one third of its assets, totaling $500 billion.
The sanctions mean that any transaction with any currency involving a U.S. person or institution is prohibited, and any assets that come in contact with the U.S. financial system are frozen. The administration expects other nations to follow on with the U.S. sanctions.
‘This is the most severe action we can take in terms of financial measures,’ said the official.
Putin keeps a notoriously tight lid on his family life.
Maria Vorontsova, 36, was born when the Russian president was a KGB spy. She is a doctor of Endocrinology and is a top researcher at a medical facility in Russia, specializing in rare childhood genetic diseases.
Tikhonova is a gymnast was was married to billionaire Kirill Shamalov, who Reuters reported was a senior shareholder in Bank Rossiya. The 2015 report estimated their joint holdings at $2 billion, with a villa in Biarritz, France. She holds a senior role at Moscow State University, and has inked documents for development projects for the school.
The sanctions also will hit Russian foreign Minister Lavrov’s wife and daughter, members of Russia’s Security Council, including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev – who was once seen years ago as a potential reformer – and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
Lavrov has been a key mouthpiece justifying Russia’s invasion on the world stage. His step-daughter Polina Kovaleva owns a $5 million luxury apartment in London and has previously come under UK sanctions.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked about the coming sanctions Tuesday, said only that they would target ‘family members’ of ‘Russian government officials.’
Katerina Tikhonova, who has never been officially confirmed as Putin’s daughter, is in charge of key investments at Moscow State University. She is a gymnast was was married to billionaire Kirill Shamalov
President Joe Biden has called Vladimir Putin a ‘war criminal’
Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have spoken about horrors they have uncovered after the Ukrainian military pushed back Russian forces from their positions
The US also sanctioned Sergei Lavrov’s step-daughter Polina Kovaleva, who owns a $5 million luxury apartment in London
Polina Kovaleva had already come under UK sanctions
The Wall Street Journal reported that US and EU sanctions would go after Putin’s daughters, without certainty about which family members would come under sanction.
Page Six reported in March that Putin’s mistress Alina Kabaeva was alleged to be in hiding in Switzerland with the couple’s four young children – information that the Kremlin has not confirmed.
Kabaeva is a former Olympic Gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics.
Biden said Monday he was seeking additional sanctions, as reports came in about attrocities in Bucha.
‘You may remember I was criticized for calling Putin a war criminal,’ he said. ‘Well, the truth of the matter, you saw what happened in Bucha. This warrants him — he is a war criminal.’
‘Most estimates are the Russian economy is now, you know, on track to contract by 10 to 15% over the course of this year, which would be which would be historic,’ said White House economic official Brian Deese at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters Wednesday.
‘If you track weekly inflation in Russia for the last four weeks, it’s been running at roughly 2% a week. So we’ve all gotten used to monthly inflation data, but 2% a week is like roughly 200% a year,’ Deese said. ‘We don’t expect there to be 200% inflation in Russia because we expect that to level off.’ But he added that is indicative of the ‘extent of the economic challenge that’s operating on the ground in Russia.’
The sanctions are meant in part to undue the ‘social contract’ that Putin has with the Russian people, offering stability and financial security in exchange for his unrivaled power, the administration official said.
‘The sad reality is Putin’s war will make it harder for Russians to travel abroad, means their debit cards may not work. They may only have the option to buy knockoff phones, and knock off clothes. The shelves of stores may be empty. The reality is the country’s economic and financial, and technological isolation and at this rate it will go back to Soviet-style standards from the 1980s.’