The Russian siege of Ukraine is entering its third week, and the U.S. government continues to pressure Russia to withdraw.
The situation has been changing dramatically from day to day, and it can be difficult to follow all the ways America and our international partners are trying to support Ukraine in this brutal conflict.
We’ve already explained “5 Ways America Is Helping Ukraine Fight Russia.” But perhaps the most confusing aspect of American efforts are the sanctions — political and economic penalties — that the U.S. has imposed on Russia and the people behind the attack.
Here’s a straightforward summary of where and how the U.S. has placed major sanctions on Russia so far.
1. Russia’s largest banks
One of the earliest sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia was on its major banks. Short of open warfare, the surest way to inflict pain on Russian President Vladimir Putin might be a swift kick in the wallet.
The U.S. cut off several of Russia’s largest banks from the U.S. financial system on Feb. 24, freezing their assets here and preventing them from doing transactions through U.S. dollars, President Joe Biden said during a press conference.
These actions “target nearly 80 percent of all banking assets in Russia and will have a deep and long-lasting effect on the Russian economy and financial system,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Affected institutions include the following:
- Sberbank (which holds about one-third of Russia’s banking assets and is the main Russian creditor)
- VTB Bank (which holds about 20% of Russia’s banking assets)
- Otkritie (Russia’s seventh-largest financial institution)
- Sovcombank (Russia’s ninth-largest bank)
- Novikombank (a state-owned financial institution)
Several other financial institutions were blocked from borrowing money in the U.S.
This action affects not just the banks, but also trusts, holding companies, insurance companies and other subsidiaries of the banks.
2. Vladimir Putin and his foreign affairs minister
On Feb. 25, the U.S. imposed sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and 11 other members of the Russian Security Council deemed most directly responsible for invading Ukraine, according to the Treasury Department.
This set of sanctions cut all of these individuals off from any financial transactions with Americans or in America. It also froze all property they have in the U.S.
3. Russia’s central bank
On Feb. 28, the U.S. imposed further banking restrictions by prohibiting U.S. persons from doing business with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, along with its related companies. Partner countries took similar simultaneous actions to block Russian access to euros, yen and pounds.
This action was aimed at disrupting the bank’s ability to support Russia’s currency, which has rapidly depreciated under the brunt of the combined sanctions and lost as much as 50% of its value since the invasion began. This in turn creates a “a negative and vicious feedback loop” of fast inflation, diminished purchasing power and diminished investment, according to the Biden administration.
4. Other Russian elites
The U.S. has also gone after dozens of wealthy and influential Russians, their family members, their property and their businesses because of their close ties to Putin, according to the Treasury Department.
In particular, administration officials highlighted billionaire Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, who owns one of the world’s largest superyachts. That yacht named Dilbar — worth as much as $735 million and boasting two helipads plus a massive indoor pool — and is now blocked from any practical use. The yacht’s operation and maintenance run about $60 million per year, according to the Treasury Department, which has coordinated with other countries to block any possible maintenance, hiring, docking fees and similar expenses necessary to use it. (It was also located and seized by Germany.)
They did the same thing with his personal jet, worth as much as $500 million.