US readies Russia sanctions as Ukraine military trains

US readies Russia sanctions as Ukraine military trains

The United States has reportedly tailored a list of Russian officials in or near President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to target with sanctions if Moscow goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.

A senior White House official confirmed to Reuters Monday that the Biden administration and its Western allies have worked out a package of penalties with which to hit Russian elites and their family members. 

“The individuals we have identified are in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin and play a role in government decision making or are at a minimum complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilizing behavior,” the official said.

“We cannot disclose the contents of this list or name specific names given flight risks, but it provides ample targets and family networks involved in stashing their assets,” they added.

Russian tanks T-72B3 take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Jan. 12, 2022.
Russian tanks T-72B3 take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Jan. 12, 2022.

Some of the people reportedly have deep financial ties to Western nations, making them particularly vulnerable to the sanctions, the official continued. 

“Putin’s cronies will not longer be able to use their spouses or other family members as proxies to evade sanctions,” they went on. “Sanctions would cut them off from the international financial systems and ensure that they and their family members will no longer [be] able to enjoy the perks of parking their money in the West and attending elite Western universities.” 

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported the US is also looking at targeting Russian banks, government-backed companies and the country’s import sector with sanctions.

A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Jan. 18, 2022.
Amid a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, Moscow has denied planning an attack on Ukraine.

The US has repeatedly vowed to hit Russia with “severe” economic penalties if it chooses to invade Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has any ambition of attacking its western neighbor and has decried Western concerns as “hysteria.”

Meanwhile, Washington has stepped up its military aid to Ukraine. New photos published Monday show an American military instructor demonstrating the proper use of a missile launcher. Other images showed civilians training with wooding prop guns to defend the capital city of Kiev.

There are currently about 200 members of the Florida National Guard in Ukraine in a training and advisory capacity. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Thursday that no decision had been made about moving those forces out of the country.

Pro-Russian servicemen hold their Kalashnikov guns as they talks to each other standing in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants on the frontline with Ukrainian government forces near Spartak village in Yasynuvata district of Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2022.
The Biden administration and its Western allies have worked out a package of penalties.
AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File

“If and when we believe that for that safety and security, a decision needs to be made about moving them, the Secretary will not hesitate to do so,” Kirby told reporters, referring to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “I wouldn’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet.”

“In the event that they had to be moved, we believe that can be done in a fairly expeditious manner,” Kirby added.

In recent weeks, the US has remained adamant that an invasion could be “imminent,” with the top American military officer warning Friday that Russia could attack with “very, very little warning.”

“This is larger in scale and scope in the massing of forces than anything we have seen in recent memory, and I think you’d have to go back quite a while into the Cold War days to see something of this magnitude,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They do annual exercises and we watch those closely, but this is different.” 

Demonstrators display a banner in the colours of the Ukrainian flag reading "Stop [Russian President] Putin, Stop war" during a protest at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on January 30, 2022.
Demonstrators criticized Putin’s massing of troops near the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine’s government has appeared to play down the potential invasion threat, with the country’s president suggesting Friday the West was creating a “panic” in his country.

“Do we have tanks on the streets? No. When you read media, you get the image that we have troops in the city, people fleeing…That’s not the case,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in a news conference

“I’m the president of Ukraine and I’m based here and I think I know the details better here,” he added.

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