The US has slapped sanctions on Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of Russia’s central bank, as part of a new package of measures intended to stiffen its financial punishment of Moscow in the wake of its move to annex vast chunks of territory in eastern Ukraine.
The move against Nabiullina came as the Treasury department widened its sanctions against Russia to include several of the country’s top economic officials, in addition to individuals and legislators associated with the military invasion of Ukraine.
Western officials were swift to condemn Putin’s actions, launching a co-ordinated response that included fresh sanctions from the EU and the UK. US president Joe Biden said Russia’s moves “have no legitimacy”, adding that America would continue to rally the world against them.
“I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said Washington would not “stand by as [Vladimir] Putin fraudulently attempts to annex parts of Ukraine”.
She added that the US was “targeting key leaders in Russia’s financial architecture as part of our aggressive and co-ordinated effort to hold Putin and his enablers accountable for his unprovoked invasion, and limit their ability to prop up their economy”.
Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, added that the US would take action at the UN security council on Friday to hold Russia accountable for the moves.
The US Treasury department explained its decision to impose sanctions on Nabiullina, saying she had been instrumental in Russia’s efforts to protect its economy in recent years from western sanctions dating back to the invasion of Crimea in 2014.
“Directly and indirectly, Russia’s financial technocrats have supported the Kremlin’s unprovoked war,” it said. “Today’s actions target key figures who, through their top leadership positions, have personally enriched themselves while facilitating Putin’s war in Ukraine, actively undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Ukraine.”
Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of Nato, warned that Putin’s annexation decision “represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war”. Stoltenberg reiterated that there would be “very significant consequences” if Putin used nuclear weapons, adding that this message had been delivered to Moscow.
The US sanctions were announced as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen vowed to “make the Kremlin pay” for its latest escalation earlier this week as she proposed an eighth package of sanctions on Russia.
The commission’s proposals would lay the foundation for a long-awaited cap on the price of seaborne Russian oil, while also imposing a ban on EU individuals serving on the boards of Russian state-owned enterprises, and enacting a swath of fresh export controls.
The new penalties will need to be unanimously endorsed by EU member states, but there was no immediate agreement after an initial discussion between EU ambassadors in Brussels on Friday.
The UK slammed Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian territory and slapped additional economic sanctions on Russia as well as Nabiullina for introducing the rouble currency into the zones.
“We will never recognise the results of these sham referendums or any annexation of Ukrainian territory,” foreign secretary James Cleverly said.
On Ukraine’s formal application for accelerated accession to Nato, which president Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Friday, Blinken said: “We strongly support Nato’s open door. We strongly support bringing into Nato countries that seek to join and that can add to Nato’s capabilities. There’s a process for doing that and countries will continue to follow that process.”
Separately, the Treasury also imposed sanctions on Olga Skorobogatova, first deputy governor of the Russian central bank, and Aleksandr Novak, Russia’s deputy prime minister.
America’s targeting of Nabiullina comes seven months after the US and its allies imposed sanctions on transactions with the Russian central bank immediately after Moscow launched its attack on Ukraine, in a surprise move to curb Russia’s ability to operate in the international financial system.
Additional reporting by Henry Foy in Warsaw