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US unveils fresh sanctions on Russia after Navalny's death

Daniel Flatley, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

The U.S. unveiled its biggest one-day sanctions package against Russia since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago, targeting more than 500 people and entities in a fresh bid to squeeze the country’s economy and send a message over the death of dissident Alexey Navalny.

Sanctioned people and entities included Russia’s Mir payment system, a military drone manufacturer and its top staff, and three people linked to Navalny’s death earlier this month in a Russian prison. A State Department advisory said the moves - which also included pressure on Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company Rosatom Corp. — were aimed at “imposing additional costs on Russia for both its internal repression and foreign aggression” led by President Vladimir Putin.

“That’s why I’m announcing more than 500 new sanctions in response to Putin’s brutal war of conquest, in response to Alexey Navalny’s death,” President Joe Biden said Friday at the White House. “We can’t walk away now. That’s what Putin is betting on.”

Just as important was what was left off the list: the U.S. largely avoided sanctions on Russia’s metals sector and held off major sanctions on energy amid wariness of economic shocks in an election year. That led to forecasts that Russia’s economy — which has largely withstood the sanctions campaign — would only continue to grow.

“The latest announcements mark only an incremental tightening of the sanctions regime and we still estimate that Russia’s economy will expand by around 1% to 1.5% in 2024,” Alexander Isakov, Russia economist at Bloomberg Economics, said in a note. Sanctions on Mir will complicate Russia’s access to western technology “but aren’t likely to close those channels completely.”

The U.S. has already imposed sweeping sanctions affecting whole swaths of Russia’s economy and prominent oligarchs following the invasion of Ukraine. It’s acted in concert with European allies, which have also imposed about a dozen sanctions packages in a complementary bid to punish Putin and crimp his forces’ ability to wage war.

 

In fact, the Kremlin’s calculation that it would be able to outlast U.S. resolve appears to be paying off as billions in aid is stalled in the approval process in Congress, leaving Ukrainian troops short of the shells they need to hold off Putin’s forces.

Ukraine presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said the only action that will scare Putin or Russia’s elites is to provide more weapons.

“Lots of weapons,” Podolyak wrote on X. “A really big amount of weapons for Ukraine. Long-range, anti-missile, anti-marine weapons. The rest is a fiction, delayed awareness, chronicling of the process, prolongation of the war.”

None of the people or entities targeted Friday were especially well known. That highlighted how the U.S. and European nations have already imposed harsh penalties and export controls on the most significant sectors of the Russian economy in the days after the invasion.

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