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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2022.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2022. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

US Announces Direct Sanctions on Russia's Putin, Lavrov

The Biden administration announced that it will sanction the Russian president and foreign minister as well as top members of the country's national security team.

Kenny Stancil

The United States will directly sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and members of the Russian national security team, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced Friday.

The Biden administration's move comes after E.U. ambassadors agreed to freeze Putin and Lavrov's assets in Europe in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping sanctions to limit exports to Russia, freeze its major banks' assets in the U.S., and restrict the economic activities of the country's oligarchs.

Although Putin was initially excluded from Washington's expanded list of Russian elites and their family members subject to sanctions, Biden told CNN's Kaitlan Collins on Thursday that directly targeting the Russian president was "on the table."

Earlier Friday, European Union officials announced that the bloc would be beefing up its sanctions on Russia by including Putin and Lavrov.

"They are responsible for the deaths of innocent people in Ukraine, and for trampling on the international system," said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. "We, as Europeans, do not accept that."

Psaki, for her part, said that the U.S. is widening the scope of sanctions to include Putin and Lavrov "in alignment" with its allies.

Putin, reportedly a billionaire, becomes the highest-profile target in the West's effort to hurt Russia's economy and the nation's elites following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Russia's military has reached the capital of Kyiv—devastating civilians and committing possible war crimes along the way.

According to CNN, "The decision to target Putin directly across Western allies marks the most personal escalation of a sweeping effort to respond to Russia's actions through economic penalties. While it's unclear the extent of the direct effect—officials have long said Putin's finances are opaque and difficult to track—the symbolism of targeting the Russian leader is clear."

As E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pointed out, Putin becomes just the third world leader—after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko—to be sanctioned by the bloc.

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