US, Allies to Ban Investments in Russia, Sanction Banks on Wednesday
The United States and its allies will on Wednesday impose new sanctions on Russian banks and officials and ban new investment in Russia, the White House said, after officials in Washington and Kyiv accused Moscow of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
The sanctions will increase curbs on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia and target Russian government officials and their families, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, what we’re going to announce … in coordination with the G-7 and EU, (is) an additional sweeping package of sanctions measures that will impose costs on Russia and send it further down the road of economic, financial, and technological isolation,” Psaki said, noting that the G-7 and EU comprised around 50 percent of the global economy.
The measures will “degrade key instruments of Russian state power, impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia, and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war,” she said.
She declined to comment on reports that the sanctions would target the daughters of Putin.
US Defense Chief Defends Ukraine Response
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended America’s response to the war in Ukraine on Tuesday during a heated exchange with a Republican lawmaker who accused the Pentagon of over-estimating Russia’s military capability.
“Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done? And our allies have done? Have you ever even thought about that?” Austin asked rhetorically to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. Austin and other U.S. officials say U.S. support to Ukrainian forces, along with Ukraine’s strong will to fight, has thwarted Russia’s plans for a swift victory in its now more than month-long invasion.
US Imposes Sanctions on Russian Darknet Market and Crypto Exchange
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tuesday on a prominent Russia-based darknet market site and a cryptocurrency exchange that it said operates primarily out of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The sanctions against Hydra and currency exchange Garantex, published on the Treasury Department’s website, “send a message today to criminals that you cannot hide on the darknet or their forums,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
According to blockchain researchers, approximately 86 percent of illicit bitcoin received directly by Russian crypto exchanges in 2019 came from Hydra, which the Treasury Department described as the world’s “largest and most prominent darknet market.”
The new sanctions prohibit U.S. persons from making or receiving “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services” to Hydra or Garantex, the Treasury said.
The department said the sanctions, which prohibit U.S. transactions with Hydra and Garantex and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction, is part of an international effort to disrupt proliferation of malicious cybercrime services, drugs and other illegal offerings, including ransomware activity, that emanate from Russia.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.