The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada banned certain Russian banks from SWIFT on Saturday, the high security network that facilitates payments among 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries. Earlier in the week, Germany halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline following Moscow’s actions.
The European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Australia and Taiwan all hit Moscow with new injunctions over the weekend, condemning the military incursion that unfolded over the past 24 hours.
Russia is already paying a price for its aggression. The country’s stocks and currency tanked last week after Putin’s ordered troops into eastern Ukraine. Russia’s stock market was closed Monday.
The Ruble hit record lows Monday, sliding as much as 30% against the dollar, while the Russian central bank more than doubled interest rates to 20%.
Putin is “indifferent” to Western sanctions against him, his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday, as he has no assets abroad.
“The sanctions contain rather absurd statements about some assets, etc… Everyone knows that President [Putin] doesn’t have any assets, in fact, except for those that are declared every year in the amount of a [car] trailer and an apartment, and some bank deposits,” he said.
Though Putin owns modest assets on paper, opposition members and investigative journalists allege he has a hidden fortune.
Here’s a look at the latest major sanctions.
The European Commission – along with the United States, United Kingdom and Canada – pledged Saturday to remove Russia from SWIFT, a global messaging service that connects financial systems, as part of stricter moves to remove Russia from the international finance system.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication is used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders – kicking Russia out of it is considered a “nuclear move.”
The countries also committed to imposing “restrictive measures” that would prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of sanctions. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the measures will paralyze Russia’s central bank assets and freeze its transactions, making it impossible to liquidate its assets.
“We will stop Putin from using his war chest,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
The statement said it will limit the sale of “golden passports,” which allow wealthy Russians to gain citizenship in another country in exchange for an investment. This move would clamp down on wealthy Russians with connections to the government becoming citizens of other countries and “gaining access to our financial systems.”
Von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron announced other measures early Friday, vowing to inflict “maximum impact on the Russian economy and political elite.”
“We will hold the Kremlin accountable,” said von der Leyen.
The sanctions are aimed to hit Russia’s financial, energy and transport sectors, and include export controls and trade financing bans.
Even historically neutral Switzerland is adopting the EU’s sanctions against Russia, President Ignazio Cassis announced Monday. The country, which is a major center for wealthy Russian oligarchs, said it’s freezing the assets of certain individuals “with immediate effect.”
The sanctions and asset freeze will apply to Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Switzerland affirmed its commitment to neutrality and said it will examine further EU sanctions on a “case-by-case basis.”
“Russia’s unprecedented military attack on a sovereign European country was the deciding factor in the Federal Council’s decision to change its previous stance on sanctions,” a statement said.
The French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday that the country will go after luxury goods owned by Russians targeted by sanctions, following a defense council meeting called by French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We are pursuing the complete census of financial assets, real estate, yachts and luxury vehicles that would belong to Russian personalities under European sanctions,” Le Maire said.
Japan said Monday that it will impose more sanctions on Russia, aligning with the G-7. Specifically, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan will limit transactions with Russia’s central bank and that it would impose sanctions on Belarus, Reuters reported. Over the weekend, the country indicated it will deny certain Russian banks access to SWIFT and that it will freeze Putin’s assets.
Kishida announced a range of measures last week, including freezing the assets of certain Russian individuals and financial institutions while also banning exports to Russian military organizations.
“In response to this situation, we will strengthen our sanction measures in close cooperation with the G7 and the rest of the international community,” Kishida said in a press conference on Friday.
Australia’s leader said Friday that it would “begin imposing further sanctions on oligarchs, whose economic weight is of strategic significance to Moscow and over 300 members of the Russian Duma, their parliament.”
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison added that Canberra was “also working with the United States to align with their further sanctions overnight on key Belarusian individuals and entities complicit in the aggression, so we are extending those sanctions to Belarus.”
The new round of measures came after Australia imposed travel bans and targeted financial sanctions on eight members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on Thursday.
New Zealand is prohibiting the export of goods to the Russian military and security forces in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday that it would cut trade with Russia and impose travel bans against Russian officials as it continued to call for a return to diplomatic dialogue to resolve the crisis.
“Right here and now we need to take immediate action,” Ardern said in a press conference in Wellington.
“This is the blatant use of military might and violence that will take innocent lives and we must stand against it.”
Taiwan announced Friday that it would join the economic sanctions against Russia, without specifying which measures were being considered.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that it “strongly condemns” Russia’s decision to start a war against Ukraine, adding that it has posed a serious threat to the rules-based international order.
The decision to impose sanctions was made “to compel Russia to halt its military aggression against Ukraine, and to restart peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned as soon as possible,” the ministry added.
Taiwan is a global leader in the production of semiconductors.
The United States
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced further actions against Russia on Monday, including barring Russian financial institutions – such as the Russian Central Bank – from making transactions in American dollars.
The US also imposed sanctions on the state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund, calling it a “known slush fund” for Putin and his inner circle.
The aggressive moves were taken to prohibit Russia from accessing a “rainy day fund” that officials said Moscow had been expecting to rely upon during the invasion of Ukraine. Instead of using the reserves to buffer a plummeting ruble, Russia will no longer be able to access the funds it keeps in US dollars.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled another set of harsh measures against Russia, saying: “Putin chose this war.”
Those sanctions include export blocks on technology, a centerpiece of Biden’s approach that he said would severely limit Russia’s ability to advance its military and aerospace sector.
In a statement, the White House said “this includes Russia-wide restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics and maritime technologies.”
Washington also put sanctions on people it described as “corrupt billionaires” and their families who are close to the Kremlin.
It said it would cut off 13 major state-owned companies from raising money in the United States, including energy giant Gazprom and Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution.
The White House also vowed to sanction two dozen Belarusian individuals and companies, which include “two significant Belarusian state-owned banks, nine defense firms, and seven regime-connected officials and elites.”
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom imposed fresh sanctions on Russian banks Monday and said it had a “hit list” of oligarchs to be sanctioned, according to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
The country will prevent Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, from clearing payments in Sterling. And three more Russian banks – Otkritie, Sovcombank and VEB – will face a full asset freeze.
Truss said the UK will bring a full asset freeze on all Russian banks “in days” to Parliament on Monday.
The UK joined other Western countries over the weekend to ice Russian banks out of SWIFT.
The United Kingdom is also set to sanction 100 individuals and entities as part of further sanctions against Russia, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.
An asset freeze will be imposed on Russian state bank VTB, he added, following the sanctioning of five Russian banks on Tuesday. Russian state and private companies will also be prevented from fund raising in the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom will ban Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, and apply sanctions to Belarus “for its role in the assault on Ukraine,” the prime minister added.
Going forward, Britain is also hoping to bring in legislation this week to ban the export of certain technologies to Russia, particularly “in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace,” according to Johnson.
“We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia, from the global economy, piece by piece. Day by day, and week by week,” Johnson told lawmakers.
— Charles Riley, Kevin Liptak, Nathan Hodge, Julia Horowitz, Chris Liakos, Nikki Carvajal, Jeremy Diamond, Xiaofei Xu and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.